New York City plans to reopen schools for in-person learning in September, becoming the biggest city to do so

  • New York City Schools will return students to classrooms for in-person instruction beginning on September 21, 10 days later than anticipated.
  • Students haven't stepped inside schools since the city shifted to remote learning on March 16.
  • Teachers will return to classrooms on September 8 to prepare, and remote instruction will begin on September 16.
  • While some US school districts have brought students back for in-person learning, most major districts have kept students learning remotely in order to avoid further coronavirus outbreaks.
  • While New York experienced the worst outbreak of COVID-19 nationally at the start of the pandemic, the positivity rate in the state is now less than 1%.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The city of New York plans to allow its 1.1 million public school students back to classrooms for in-person learning beginning on September 21, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

The September 21 date delays the start of the school year by 10 days after educators in the city expressed concerns over their ability to get their school buildings ready to welcome students back in time. School leaders cited issues implementing with proper preventative measures, like when to test students for COVID-19, and concerns over aging ventilation systems in school buildings, The New York Times reported.

New York educators also had concerns about how they would be able to create lessons that would serve both students who returned to school buildings and those who opted to continue learning virtually, according to the report. Before the new plans were announced, the union representing teachers in New York City had planned a vote Tuesday afternoon to authorize a strike over concerns related to the original back-to-school date.

Teachers in the largest US school system will return to their classrooms beginning on September 8 in order to prepare for the return of students, who haven't been inside schools since the city shifted students to remote learning on March 16. In August, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead for school buildings throughout the state to reopen.

"If any state can do it, this state can do it because we've been smart since day one," Cuomo said last month. "We can bring the same level of intelligence that we brought to the economic reopening."

While the state of New York experienced the worst US outbreak of the novel coronavirus at the outset of the pandemic reaching the country, its mitigation measures have been successful. The state has maintained a positivity rate of approximately 1% since July, down from a peak of 50% in April, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  

De Blasio has argued that New York City students, especially those in the city's low-income neighborhoods, need in-person instruction to succeed, as The New York Times noted.

School systems in other major cities, from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, announced their students would begin the school year online over coronavirus concerns. Some school systems, however, like those in Detroit, have implemented plans that afford students the opportunity to return to the classroom.

Some school districts across the US that had already opened to students experienced outbreaks and were forced to quarantine students and staff. Several US universities that brought students back to campus later shifted their semesters online after experiencing outbreaks.

The question over whether to welcome students has been the subject of monthslong nationwide debate, with President Donald Trump serving as a vocal proponent of a return to in-person instruction.

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