Original article written by Jennifer Peltz for the Associated Press
New York City public school students will get another chance to go back to school in-person this spring after federal authorities eased their guidance on how many children can safely fit in a classroom, Mayor Bill de Blasio said last Friday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier Friday that students can safely sit 3 feet (1 meter) apart in the classroom if they wear masks. The agency previously called for 6 feet (2 meters) of distance. Schools around the country had to remove desks and stagger schedules in order to meet that standard. Returns to the classroom will start with preschoolers and elementary school students. “For parents of kids in younger grades, we are confident that we will be able to bring back a substantial number of students by the end of April,” said Mayor de Blasio.
But the teachers union questioned the mayor’s authority to open the schoolhouse doors to more students and complained that he had issued a “proclamation without a plan.” “We will wait for New York state to weigh in,” the United Federation of Teachers said in a statement. About 70% of New York City’s more than 1 million public school students have elected to learn online, the Department of Education said. While it’s unclear how many will sign up to return to physical classrooms for the last three months of the school year, the mayor suggested “a lot of parents have been clamoring for that opportunity.”
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