Photo by Jannis Lucas via Unsplash

New York City public schools are set to reopen for the school year in September, as per Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent announcement. In the shift to return to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic, these schools will have full-time, in-person learning with no remote learning option. 

The city, which is home to the nation’s largest public school system, lifted its previous restrictions, including the option to neither wear a mask nor practice social distancing for vaccinated individuals. Now, schools can be considered included in this step, despite the vaccine only recently being available to those in New York City who are 12 and older. 

“New York City’s recovery hinges on the full reopening of schools and I’m so grateful for the resilience, determination and flexibility of all members of the DOE community as we prepare to welcome back all of our students in-person in the fall,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter in a press release

RELATED: New York Revises COVID-19 Reopening Guidelines as Workers Return to the City

The announcement comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted similar restrictions nationwide. As a result, according to a K-12 School Opening Tracker by the localized research organization Burbio, about 70% of students across the country are attending schools with in-person learning full-time. 

Of the one million students within the New York City public school system, more than 60% are still learning fully remotely. This next step is an indicator of major progress towards a city unaffected by the pandemic, and mirrors the similar decision made by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy just days before.

Still, Mayor de Blasio’s announcement was received with mixed emotions. 

People are concerned about the lack of a remote option for various reasons. There are still many children who have not received a vaccine, or have even qualified for it, so parents are worried about the risk of infection. This seems to be especially important to those whose children have extreme medical challenges that are exacerbated by the still-existing threat of COVID-19.

There also exists the state of restrictions, which have been problematic and ever-changing throughout the past year. Previous concerns included whether or not public schools would have enough space to accommodate the city’s 3-foot social distancing requirements. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released an update on “NY Forward,” his plan to fully return which includes the lifting of distancing requirements for the state of New York overall. Mayor de Blasio, in a press conference, also expressed his expectations for the continuation of lifting restrictions before the start of the school year. 

Other concerns include the impact that full in-person learning will have on communities of color, whichhave, as of March according to data from the U.S. Education Department, been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

Additionally, in a demographic data released by the city, Asian and Black families have been particularly likely to keep their children home, rooted in a distrust for the New York City Department of Education.

Megan Morelli, a public school teacher in Astoria, Queens, looks to the future with hope. 

“Next year is going to be very different because we all have to shift our expectations. Our students have been through so much this year, between remote learning and the blended schedule, there will undoubtedly be gaps in their knowledge from this past year,” Morelli told Scriberr News. 

“We just have to be aware of that, be patient, empathetic, and proactive when it comes to how we approach our incoming students next year.”

Written ByAddison Gallagher

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