Hundreds of thousands of elementary school students are heading back to classrooms Tuesday as New York City enters a high-stakes stage of resuming in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic, which is keeping students at home in many other big US school systems.
Twice delayed, the elementary school reopening comes over objections from school principals who said the city's complicated, changing plans put them in a staffing bind. Meanwhile, officials are worried about recent spurts in virus cases in some city neighbourhoods after a summer of success at keeping transmission fairly stable in the city as a whole.
"It's a big moment for the city," Mayor Bill de Blasio said on cable news station NY1 Monday night. With in-person learning for middle and high school students scheduled to begin Thursday, he noted, "as many as half a million kids could be in school in the course of this week." With over 1 million public school students, New York City initially had a more ambitious timeline than many other big US school systems for bringing children back to schoolhouses this fall.
Families have the option of choosing all-remote learning, and a growing number are doing so - 48 per cent as of Friday, up from 30 per cent six weeks earlier, according to city Education Department statistics.