The Department of Education (DOE) of New York City laid out new COVID-19 school closure guidelines to ensure students, faculty, and staff’s safety, formally replacing the two-case rule last Thursday.
On Monday, students in New York City public schools will return to in-person schooling after what is hopefully the final period of COVID-related blanket school closures.
The DOE works closely with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Test & Trace Corps in enforcing stringent health protocols to identify, isolate, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 upon reopening of schools.
The criteria to force remote learning is modified in the new set of guidelines. Two to three positive cases within seven days will only prompt increased testing to identify infected individuals instead of the previous complete shutdown for every two positive cases.
Of the students and teachers, 20 percent of the population will be tested for COVID-19 every week to monitor potential cases consistently. Testing would increase to 40 percent in the event of two to four confirmed cases in one classroom.
Grades 3-K through 12 are prioritized at 22 health and hospital testing centers. Everyone entering the school vicinity and families and students outside the school is encouraged to get free, convenient, and safe COVID-19 testing with their results strictly kept confidential. No school ID or proof of enrollment is required upon testing DOE students, although parents and guardians are encouraged to present their insurance cards.
The rules of individual classroom closure remain consistent with the previous guidelines — one confirmed case merits a 10-day enforced remote learning, excluding vaccinated individuals, and a return to face-to-face after zero new cases. Similarly, symptomatic individuals will be asked to self-quarantine and an in-depth investigation and testing of their close contacts will be in order.
Mayor Bill de Blasio initially proposed to implement the new policy to balance the fight of NYC schools against the spread of COVID-19, citing the need to have more consistency in school attendance and schedules while still implementing “gold standard” health and safety standards to ensure the safety of students returning to schools. “This will help us to have more consistency in school attendance and schedules, keep strict health and safety standards, our situation room is always monitoring closely,” de Blasio said.
All schools are still expected to implement and layer prevention strategies and prioritize the correct use of masks and physical distancing, along with an on-call nurse stationed in every school building.
Moreover, the new policy supports healthy nourishment and hygiene behaviors by ensuring that adequate supplies, including grab-and-go snacks, soaps, disinfectants, tissues, hand sanitizers, and face masks are readily available. The school buildings are also installed with exhaust fans and HVAC to improve ventilation.
Reopening the school doors is an important first step in addressing the negative consequences that the pandemic has inflicted on the education and well-being of the students of New York City.