The latest news on school closures today: live updates

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“We remain open,” says New York mayor of schools

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has insisted that schools will remain open despite the increase in Omicron cases in the city. He said distance learning had been too damaging, especially for children in low-income neighborhoods and homeless students.

We are really excited about the opening of our schools and we want to be extremely clear: the safest place for our children is in a school building. And we will keep our schools open and make sure our children are safe – in a safe environment. Our children have been exposed to an environment of crime and uncertainty. It really traumatized parents who did not have child care. The distance learning aspect was terrible for the poorest communities – especially children who lived in homeless shelters or who lived – were in housing insecurity. The food aspect – schools provide primary meals for many students in this city. And then socialization. We have seen an increase in suicide, suicide attempts. We are not sending a vague message about what is going to happen from day to day. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen from day to day. We remain open. We are going to do whatever we need to do to keep our schools open. And I know there are questions about staffing. I know this question about testing. There are a lot of questions, but we’re going to turn those question marks into an exclamation mark. We remain open.

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams has insisted that schools will remain open despite the increase in Omicron cases in the city. He said distance learning had been too damaging, especially for children in low-income neighborhoods and homeless students.CreditCredit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Mayor Eric Adams insisted Monday morning that schools in New York City would remain open despite an extraordinary increase in Omicron cases. He repeated the message in a series of TV interviews and after his first official visit to the school since taking office on New Years Day.

“We are really excited about the opening of our schools,” said Adams outside the school, Concourse Village Elementary School in the Bronx. “We want to be extremely clear: the safest place for our children is a school building. “

Mr Adams said distance learning has been disastrous for too many of the city’s nearly one million schoolchildren in the nation’s largest school district, and has been particularly harmful to neighborhood children. low income and homeless students.

But the calm Mr. Adams sought to project was not shared by the many parents and educators who greeted Monday morning with deep trepidation. After about a year of remarkably low virus transmission in schools, Covid cases skyrocketed in the week leading up to winter break, shutting down 11 schools and over 400 classrooms, and the contact tracing system for the city’s schools did indeed collapse in the midst of the wave.

New York City reported 35,650 new cases of the virus on Sunday, with an average 7-day test positivity rate of nearly 22%, state data showed.

Some families and elected officials have called on Mr. Adams to delay the start of the school year by a few days to allow each child and educator to be tested. And teachers have raised questions about how schools will be properly staffed with so many teachers sick with the virus or quarantined due to exposures.

“This is a time when everyone is on deck,” Adams said, acknowledging that administrators who are not normally in the classroom would be used to address staff shortages if necessary.

Mr Adams endorsed a plan created by former Mayor Bill de Blasio that is designed to keep more classrooms open as the wave continues. The plan calls for the distribution of 1.5 million rapid home test kits to schools.

Starting Monday, the city is also doubling its randomized school testing program to have 20% of consenting children in each school have PCR tests each week. But most families did not choose to allow their children to be tested, which made the testing pool very small in some schools.

The mayor and new schools chancellor David C. Banks are betting their plan to increase testing will prevent major outbreaks.

“We’re going to turn those question marks into an exclamation point: we’re staying open,” Adams said.

Mr Adams and Mr Banks have so far resisted calls to impose booster shots for educators or vaccines for children. The mayor said a decision will be made this spring regarding the requirement for student vaccines for the fall.

“We’re not at the mandate stage,” Adams said Monday, as he encouraged eligible New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the city’s teachers’ union, said in an email to members that he encouraged Mr. Adams to start the year remotely. But on Monday morning, Mr Mulgrew said he was working closely with the new mayor and that schools had been among the safest places in the city throughout the pandemic.

Later Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul reiterated his commitment to keeping New York’s children in schools.

“My point of view is that every child should go back to school unless they test positive,” she said.

The state has distributed 5.2 million home test kits to schools so far, with an additional 3.8 million arrived yesterday and have yet to be distributed.

Under the current rule, test kits will only be provided to students for known exhibits that occur in classrooms, although Ms Hochul said the policy is under review.

She also warned against a return to distance learning. “The teachers did their best. The parents did their best, ”she said. “But we ask too much.”

In particular, she spoke about the effects of distance learning on children in communities of color, those who lack resources and those without high-speed internet access – an existing digital divide that she says had widened to become a “digital canyon”.

“We cannot have this,” Ms. Hochul said. “It was an injustice. We can’t have that anymore.

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