April 5, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is revoking a controversial rule that closed public school buildings for 10 days if two unlinked COVID-19 cases were found in the school community.
The DOE will no longer shutter schools for in-person classes due to two cases of the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday. A new rule will soon go into effect, he said, although the details have yet to be released.
Parents whose children are enrolled in the city’s hybrid learning model — in which they attend school in-person on some days and remotely on other days — have long argued that the constant closures have created an unstable learning environment. It also creates stress, they say, when the closures leave them scrambling to find childcare.
Many parents and even some teachers have been calling on the city to change the rule for weeks.
“I heard one request over and over again from parents, from teachers, from principals, from families all over New York City — improve the stability and consistency of instruction by changing the two-case rule,” Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said at the press briefing with the mayor this morning.
“I heard this from everyone and I am so happy today that we are answering the call.”
De Blasio said the city is able to reverse the strict rule due to the proven safety measures required at schools along with the fact that many teachers and other school staff have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
“We’ve looked at the data, we’ve looked at the science and we have come to the conclusion that it’s time for a change,” he said. “We will be replacing the two-case rule–and in the coming days, we will be announcing a replacement rule and then that will be implemented.”
De Blasio didn’t reveal the date that the existing rule will no longer be in effect.
The state must also approve the city’s decision to remove the rule as well as its new policy.
The union representing the city’s teachers, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), has been reluctant to change the rule and took a swipe at de Blasio after the announcement.
“Any change to the two-case rule has to take the safety of children and their families into account, not the Mayor’s need for a Monday morning announcement,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.
While more than 65,000 school teachers and staffers have been vaccinated for COVID-19, children are currently ineligible for the vaccine.
“Students now account for two-thirds of the new infections,” Mulgrew said. “We have been talking to our medical experts, and we will continue to discuss these issues with the city.”
He added that the two-case rule remains in effect until the the state approves its disbandment.
“A proclamation is not a plan,” he said. “The city can’t change the two-case rule without Albany’s approval.”
De Blasio said he would work with the union to develop the replacement rules.
He also announced Monday that the DOE has extended the deadline for parents to enroll their children in the hybrid learning model from Wednesday to Friday.
He decided to extend the opt-in window, since the rule change may make a difference as to whether parents elect to send their children back to the classroom– as opposed to 100 percent remote learning.
“We wanted to give parents this information today and give them the rest of the week ,’till the end of Friday, on whether they want to opt in,” de Blasio said.
Porter said the change will improve the quality of the education being offered.
“Speaking as an educator, the consistency will do wonders for instruction,” she said. “Without interruptions due to building closures, teachers will be able to continue to connect more deeply with their students and better understand their academic needs.”