NYC elementary students return to schools after COVID-19 shutdown

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It was back to school — again — Monday for students in New York City’s public elementary schools.

Nearly 200,000 kids in grades K-5, along with those in 3-K and pre-K, in the blended learning program returned to the classrooms nearly three weeks after Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered public school buildings shuttered for in-person learning due to rising COVID-19 infection rates.

“The kids are really excited to be back,” said Sapna Coumou, 37, a nurse who has a son in 2nd grade and another in pre-K at PS 144 in Forest Hills, Queens.

Coumou added, “The transmission rates in schools have been really low so there really was no reason to close. I am glad everyone got together and decided to reopen schools.”

De Blasio on Nov. 18 shuttered in-person learning and switched Big Apple students to 100 percent remote learning starting the next day after the city hit a 3 percent coronavirus infection rate on a rolling seven-day average — a metric his administration established over the summer as the threshold to close the classrooms.

The move was a controversial one among city parents since Department of Education statistics showed that random internal testing of students and staffers in school buildings consistently yielded minimal infection rates.

De Blasio, who admitted a day after he closed school buildings that he had no plan in place to reopen them, has said that the city will no longer use the 3 percent threshold metric to determine school closures and that some schools will go to five-day-a-week instruction.

The city’s latest COVID-19 infection rate on a seven-day rolling average was more than 5 percent.

For Monday’s reopening of schools, Hizzoner has ordered random in-school COVID-19 testing of 20 percent of staff and students weekly instead of the previous monthly testing. Students in 3-K, pre-K and kindergarten are exempt, but others had to bring parental consent forms to attend school in-person.

Those without parental consent or a valid excuse will be moved to all-remote instruction, de Blasio has said.

“I signed the consent form on day one. I feel that it’s necessary,” said Anna Solomon, 39, who has an 8-year-old son in 3rd grade and a 5-year-old daughter in kindergarten as PS 144.

Solomon said her son was already undergone three COVID-19 tests and “he said it’s like a tickle.”

“I will do whatever is necessary to get my children back to school,” she said.

Public school parent Nihara Hardy, an NYPD civilian employee who is married to a cop in the department, said that the reopening of the city’s schools is “very important for our family.”

“My husband works nights and he would only get a couple of hours of sleep before needing to wake up when she [her 6-year-old daughter] starts remote,” said Hardy, 40, explaining, “We are very happy to be back to school.”

“I don’t have issues with the testing,” the mom said. “It’s for our benefit, so I’m OK with it.”

Meanwhile, de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza greeted and elbow-bumped students who returned to PS/MS 5 Port Morris in The Bronx Monday.

“We feel for them,” Carranza told reporters, referring to parents who had to quit or take time off work to take care of their kids during the remote learning period.

Parents of students at that school were relieved to have their children back in the classroom.

“I feel a little bit better because the online is not good for them,” said Genise Guzman, 30, a mom to a 2nd and 3rd grader.

“My son misses his friends, his teachers. He’s always getting frustrated because the tablets go off [at home].” she said. “He was excited this morning.”

On Thursday, students at all city’s District 75 schools will return to the classroom, while middle and high school students will remain all-remote for now.

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