NYC elementary schools reopen for in-person classes, but new outbreaks could change that

CNN Senior Global Affairs Analyst Bianna Golodryga speaks to a New York City mother and teacher about schools opening back up for in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Sep 30, 2020 6:11 AM
Updated: Sep 30, 2020 6:11 AM

Elementary school students in New York City streamed back into classrooms with masks, temperature checks and globs of hand sanitizer on Tuesday as the nation's largest school district tries to safely open schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But at the same time, new clusters of Covid-19 in several neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish communities are causing alarm among health officials and could quickly cause city schools to close back down.

New York City's daily positivity rate rose to 3.25%, the first time it has gone over 3% in months, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. The 7-day rolling average positivity rate stands at 1.38%. If that 7-day rate goes over 3%, de Blasio has said that the city will close all schools.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will be meeting with religious leaders in the Orthodox community along with local officials to discuss the clusters.

"This is a concern for their community -- public health concern for their community -- (and) it's also a public health concern for surrounding communities," he said.

"The cluster today can be community spread tomorrow," Cuomo added.

The possibility of a new outbreak would be a major blow to the city, which has attempted to safely reopen public schools for in-person learning.

After two earlier delays, Tuesday's opening for elementary schools is the second wave of a three-part reopening plan for the city's 1.1 million students and 75,000 teachers. Last week, preschoolers and some children with special needs were allowed back into buildings, and middle and high schools are scheduled to be back for in-person learning on Thursday.

Outside Public School 089 in Queens, Anahi Benitez said she felt comfortable with the safety protocols and was excited to bring her daughter Leah Sophia for her first day of in-person class.

"It is different from last year, but we feel confident that the school is doing everything that they can for kids to stay safe," she told CNN.

The in-person education is limited: A hybrid schedule has students in the classroom only a few days a week, with the rest of their learning online. About 54% of students are participating in that blended model, while 46% opted for fully remote learning, according to the latest preference survey results from NYC's Department of Education.

Still, with the in-person classes, New York has taken a step no other major city has even attempted. The Los Angeles Unified School District and the Chicago Public Schools, the nation's second- and third-largest school systems, both opened remotely.d

Concerns over outbreaks

The plan is not without risks. Already, staffers in at least 150 NYC school buildings have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Department of Education. The school buildings with employee infections include early education centers which are independent, community-based organizations that partner with the city's education department to provide a free full-day, high quality pre-K, a city official previously told CNN.

"While we continue to navigate the realities of a pandemic, there will be positive cases — we are putting people's health above everything else by quickly identifying and isolating positive cases to prevent further transmission," DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said.

"Beginning in October, all schools will have mandatory monthly random testing to continue to keep transmission low and our communities safe."

Everyone entering NYC schools will have to complete screening, buildings have had their ventilation systems upgraded and they've been reconfigured to allow more social distancing, the city's Department of Education said. There are also protocols for closing classrooms or more areas should anyone test positive for coronavirus.

Despite those assurances, many teachers and school staff have been less than confident in the plan laid out by the mayor and education officials, which was twice delayed at the last-minute.

On Sunday, New York City's principals and school administrators union declared a unanimous vote of no confidence in Mayor Bill de Blasio and the schools chancellor and called for the state education department to intervene.

Parents, too, have expressed their concerns to CNN.

"I am not 100% convinced that the schools are completely, adequately sanitized and ready for children," said Vanessa Nisperos, whose twin 8-year-old sons attend Public School 139 in Brooklyn.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state would provide 200 rapid-testing machines to areas where clusters of the virus have been identified and urged schools to request one if needed.

"We are going to be getting daily testing numbers, so we'll be able to tell on a day-to-day basis what is actually happening with the test in NYC schools both with the teachers and the pupils," he said. "We'll act prudently based on the numbers, but I get the concern of the principals' union and we will be watching the numbers very closely."

Cuomo said the state would take action if it was needed.

"What we're seeing now with this Brooklyn cluster, we have to get to the bottom of that. But the data is key and we'll act on the data."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 363304

Reported Deaths: 6020
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin49267665
Cuyahoga35214736
Hamilton29462371
Montgomery19636225
Butler14472144
Lucas14033409
Summit12962310
Stark8529197
Warren798975
Mahoning7068299
Lake662766
Lorain623697
Clermont563946
Delaware540335
Licking535875
Fairfield523763
Trumbull5159144
Greene510563
Clark501064
Allen460685
Marion457751
Wood4394107
Medina428654
Miami416465
Pickaway396448
Columbiana339597
Portage334471
Tuscarawas317557
Wayne314993
Richland306732
Mercer284737
Ross239259
Hancock232736
Muskingum231910
Auglaize223230
Putnam221449
Erie217165
Darke217058
Ashtabula215753
Geauga197351
Scioto193615
Union18658
Lawrence185436
Shelby184815
Athens18454
Seneca173118
Belmont158529
Madison156218
Sandusky152327
Preble148421
Huron147518
Defiance137921
Holmes137739
Logan123613
Knox122518
Fulton122025
Crawford119116
Ottawa118930
Washington116427
Clinton103414
Ashland102722
Williams10238
Jefferson10124
Highland99517
Henry98422
Brown9644
Champaign9345
Jackson90312
Van Wert8976
Fayette89217
Hardin86118
Morrow8552
Guernsey83313
Coshocton81413
Perry77012
Adams75012
Pike7261
Wyandot70516
Gallia70413
Paulding62710
Hocking61011
Noble59722
Carroll44310
Meigs37612
Monroe31021
Morgan2395
Vinton2105
Harrison1913
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 35°
Angola
Overcast
37° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 30°
Huntington
Overcast
42° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 38°
Decatur
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 35°
Van Wert
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 35°
Rain Continues Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events