School districts across New York are preparing to move to fully remote learning as coronavirus rates surge across the state, with many already announcing plans to keep children home after the Thanksgiving holiday.
After positivity rates hovered between 1 and 2 percent for much of the summer, they have begun to rise in recent weeks as colder months set in and social distancing becomes more difficult. This follows the prediction of public health experts who have warned that the coronavirus will likely spread wider in the fall and winter.
There are already plans for when New York’s largest district might close. As CBS New York reported, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that schools would have to close if the positivity rate goes above 3 percent — meaning the closings could come without much warning.
“If any day we see in the morning the indicators come out and have reached that level then we’ll move immediately the next day schools will be shut down,” he said.
The report noted that the city’s guidelines are more stringent than statewide standards, which uses a 9 percent number to trigger closings. Officials there have already sent a letter to principals providing guidance on how to be ready for a potential shutdown.
Some believe the decision to take students to all remote education could be coming very soon.
“New York City schools could go all remote as early as Monday amid COVID-19 surge,” tweeted WABC-TV reporter Sandra Bookman.
Celine Gounder, a public health expert at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, reported that the positivity rate is expected to reach the mark this weekend.
NYC will likely hit 3% COVID test positivity rates this weekend. Indoor dining is a major risk factor for spread of COVID. @NYGovCuomo & @NYCMayor: closing at 10 PM isn't enough. Let's prioritize keeping schools open as long as possible & put a pause on indoor dining STAT. pic.twitter.com/Vc5Mr9ypNj
— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA (@celinegounder) November 12, 2020
Some other districts across New York have also announced plans to move students to remote learning immediately after Thanksgiving, though not yet on a permanent basis. According to the Jamestown Post-Journal, the city said it would be shifting students to fully remote learning for a full week after break, keeping them at home until December 4. Superintendent Kevin Whitaker said they know that families will be gathering around the holiday, and want to build in more time to prevent a potential coronavirus surge within the schools.
There is some belief that the setup could last much longer. Bob Confer, a columnist for the Lockport Journal outside of Buffalo, speculated that districts across New York will likely end up going remote through at least a portion of the winter.
“Are New York families ready for the very real possibility of schools going full remote around Thanksgiving and staying that way for 1, 2, maybe 3 months?” he tweeted.