Updated: Feb 1
Original article written by Reema Amin for Chalkbeat.
As scores of school buildings shutter each week due to positive coronavirus cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this month that the two-case closure threshold is “being reevaluated.” This past school year, frequent school closures have left parents and educators frustrated. Currently, a classroom with one positive case or more can be closed for up to 10 days. The entire building can be shut if there are two or more cases without any clear links to each other. Closure decisions are made after contact tracers investigate the cases at a given building. Some people believe that frequent closures are a sign that all schools should be closed until community rates go down significantly, while others say that the threshold for closing classrooms and entire buildings is too low. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been guided by a serious and cautious approach to the health and safety of our schools and have made adjustments where needed. This protocol was established before schools opened and there was any data on transmission within a building,” wrote Miranda Barbot, spokesperson for the education department, in a statement. “Now, we are taking a close look at the data and this threshold and will make any changes in accordance with public health guidance.” With research showing that mask-wearing and social distancing are good tools to prevent virus spread inside of schools, many feel that closing schools based on a numerical threshold is unnecessary. Instead, some feel evaluation should happen on a school-by-school basis. Any changes to the closure rule will require buy in from the city’s labor leaders. Safety and health guidelines were a big sticking point for the unions representing city educators before buildings reopened for some in-person learning. Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers union, is against “loosening” the current standards, according to the union. “We need to continue the protocols that have helped keep students and school staff safe,” Mulgrew said in a statement.
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