In light of the surge of Coronavirus cases in the city, there has been a massive concern amongst parents, teachers, and school administrators on the Department of Education’s impending response as schools reopen on January 3rd, 2022. The concern comes from the sheer surge that the city has seen in positive cases and the safety of in person learning at schools.
In the week before schools closed for Winter Recess, there were 11 schools closed due to positive covid cases, causing many students to partake in remote learning. Some schools in the city experienced shortages in staffing due to positive cases amongst teachers. At Millennium Brooklyn High School, some teachers were turned away from taking tests that were brought into the school due to them not filling out a form for a new policy three days in advance. This led to these teachers having to take time off educating the future of our generation and take an off-site test, only to see that they tested positive for the virus. The testing lab that came to this school left with unused tests, even though people were asking for a test. This seems like an unsustainable system of defense to protect students from the virus.
Approximately 2% of NYC students that consented to being tested received a result of positive along with approximately 7,600 school staff. Trends show that the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus seems to be affecting children more than the previous variants of the virus. Trends also show that vaccinations are preventing serious illnesses that may be caused by exposure to the virus. Gov. Kathy Hochul says, “The ones who are severely sick so far are only the unvaccinated children.”
Both the incoming and outgoing administration wants schools to remain open for in person learning in 2022. Their plan to accomplish this is through increased resources for testing amongst students. The plan of action that city officials are taking involves sending an additional 2 million rapid testing kits to all students that are potentially exposed to the virus in the classroom. This is on top of the already in place plan to send 1 million rapid test kits to schools.
That’s a total of 3 million testing kits to schools!
This new plan by the city will be testing both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. This is a shift from the previous plan of testing only unvaccinated students. The city’s goal is to double the amount of testing being done each week from 10% to 20% of it’s students.
There’s a Small Issue
While the city’s plan sounds amazing on paper, it is still contingent on one small thing. Students have to consent to being tested. The city can only send tests home with students who consent to being tested for the Coronavirus. In October, only 190,000 out of the 1 million enrolled students consented to being tested. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that in December, 330,000 of the 1 million students consented to being tested. This isn’t even close to where they want to be. School Administrations want to have a major push to increase the number of consented students.
This increase and availability in testing will be a major step by the city in protecting students, teachers, school staff, and their families.
Incoming Mayor Eric Adams spoke on the plan and its importance in keeping schools open. “We are meeting a surge in the virus with a surge in resources… When it comes to school or young people, it is critical that education is a part of their overall development, their mental health, and their social skills. And they are able to learn better when they are in an in person environment” he says.