New York City mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his plan Wednesday for getting 1.1 million students back to school this fall. It calls for a dramatic restructuring of the day-to-day life for teachers and students, who will take part in what he calls “blended learning.”
“Blended learning simply means at some points in the week you’re learning in person in the classroom, at other points of the week you’re learning remotely,” he said. The goal is to reduce classroom capacity to allow for social distancing. For the vast majority of students, that will mean alternating between attending school twice a week and three times a week, with the other weekdays spent learning from home.
“Everything we do will be with a very high bar related to health and safety,” said de Blasio, who cited a recent survey of parents in which 75 percent of those with school-age children said they want to send their children back to school. Reopening schools, he said, is the “single biggest part of restarting New York City.” He did not address how this restart is supposed to work if children are home for half of the week.
In his remarks, de Blasio acknowledged the limitations of distance learning, but said it’s improving. Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for students to be “physically present in school” as much as possible this fall. The group highlighted developmental benefits of children attending school in person and the evidence that children are less likely to get coronavirus.
New York City will not force families to send their kids to school though. De Blasio said parents will have “every right” to choose a remote-only learning option. Parents will also be able to transition between the all-remote-learning and blended-learning models.
Speaking at de Blasio’s press conference Wednesday, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza outlined some of the health and safety procedures that will be put in place at NYC schools. The buildings will undergo daily deep cleanings, and face coverings will be required for all, with some exceptions. He also emphasized that classes would ideally max out at 12 students, in an attempt to keep everyone safe. “Our city has been to hell and back, we do not want to return to that,” he said.