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NYC to issue school reopening plan next week, mayor says

People walk past William T. Sherman School PS

People walk past William T. Sherman School PS 87 on Nov. 18 after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week's closure of New York City public schools to in-person learning due to coronavirus rates in the city. Credit: Sipa USA via AP/ANTHONY BEHAR/SIPA USA

A reopening plan for the New York City public school system will be released next week — to be implemented in the weeks ahead, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday at his daily coronavirus news conference.

Eight days after announcing that all in-person schooling would indefinitely shut down beginning Nov. 19, de Blasio said that the city and state governments were discussing reopening school buildings whose students and personnel had lower infection rates. That is even if the citywide rate remains above the 3% threshold, averaged over seven days, that led to the mandatory closure of the schools under a deal made in September with the teachers union.

As of Monday, the citywide infection rate was 3.05% averaged over seven days, de Blasio said Wednesday.

Until Thursday's schools closure, several hundred thousands students had been doing "blended" learning — consisting of some school days online from home, and some days in person, due to staff shortages and the need for social distancing. The majority had been all-remote, based on the choice of their families. About 26% of students had attended any in-person classes as of statistics disclosed by the city in late October.

On Wednesday, de Blasio did not give specifics of the reopening plan to be announced next week. But he said the city would increase how often a subset of students were subject to mandatory testing from the current once a month. A vaccine could mean a return to five days of schooling, he said.

He said, in response to a question, that he regretted not having a plan in place, before the schools closed, for reopening them.

"We didn’t have a plan B and we should have had a plan B," the mayor said.

The city is working to beat back a second wave of the virus, he said.

"The second wave is coming on strong," he said. "It’s affecting every element of our lives."

He urged New Yorkers to get tested once a month. So far, there have been a million tests in New York City, he said.

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