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New York mayor sees high school classrooms reopening in current academic year

Reuters logo Reuters 2/25/2021
a sign in front of a brick building: FILE PHOTO: The entrance to Public School 159 is seen in the Queens borough of New York City © Reuters/Shannon Stapleton FILE PHOTO: The entrance to Public School 159 is seen in the Queens borough of New York City

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday expressed optimism that high school students in the country's largest school system could return to their classrooms before the end of the current academic year.

With the city's middle schools set to resume five-day-a-week in-class instruction on Thursday as the system strives to carve out a safe-learning strategy in the COVID-19 era, de Blasio said high school students would not be far behind.

"It’s something I absolutely want to do in this school year we're in right now," the mayor said at a press briefing.

The school system, with 1.1 million students and 1,800 buildings, began the academic year offering a blended learning set-up in which students rotated between in-class and remote instruction.

But as the city's rate of coronavirus infection climbed in the fall, classrooms were shut down in November. Since then, the city has resumed in-person instruction for elementary school students, and middle school students, who are in grades six through eight, are due back on Thursday.

a room filled with furniture and a window: FILE PHOTO: Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza tour New Bridges Elementary School ahead of schools reopening © Reuters/POOL FILE PHOTO: Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza tour New Bridges Elementary School ahead of schools reopening

Video: New York City Middle School Classrooms Reopen Thursday (CBS New York)

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Across the country, school re-openings have been a hot topic, with officials, teachers, parents and health professionals debating how to safely bring millions of students back to classrooms in the pandemic after 11 months of remote learning.

De Blasio said he hoped to announce high school re-openings in the next few weeks.

"High school comes with some additional complications, but I'm very hopeful we'll get it done," he said.

The mayor touted the city's school re-opening strategy as a national model, noting that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control "borrowed heavily from the New York City approach" when it issued its guidelines.

At schools with in-class learning, the city requires weekly virus testing, masks, distancing, hand-washing, ventilated spaces and contract tracing -- all components of the CDC guidelines, de Blasio said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely)

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