The new policy goes into effect when schools return from...

The new policy goes into effect when schools return from winter break on Monday. Credit: Sipa USA via AP/ANTHONY BEHAR/SIPA USA

Coronavirus-exposed students in the New York City public schools will be told to keep coming to class if they test negative and show no symptoms — instead of quarantining at home, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

The new policy, which goes into effect when schools reopen Monday post winter break, follows a recommendation, issued Dec. 17 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called Test to Stay, that lets exposed students, if masked, remain in classrooms.

"When there’s a positive case in a classroom, every child takes home at-home test kits. Every child who tests negative comes back to school; it’s as simple as that. As long as they’re asymptomatic, as long as they continue to test negative, they keep coming to school," de Blasio said, announcing the plan at a remote news conference from City Hall.

At least 13 of the nation’s largest school districts have announced plans to use the Test to Stay model, as of a Dec. 23 survey by the Seattle-based Center on Reinventing Public Education, which has been tracking COVID-19 in public schools since the start of the pandemic, according to spokeswoman Linda Perlstein.

The city's plan, named Stay Safe, Stay Open, calls for coronavirus-exposed students to be sent home with a test kit, with testing to be done twice over a seven-day period following exposure, de Blasio said.

"This guarantees more consistency in their education. It guarantees fewer disruptions, which parents have rightfully said have been a tremendous challenge for them," he said.

Schools find out about students who test positive by various means, including from the results of random tests and parental reports.

Following those reports, at-home test kits are to be distributed to classmates who had close contact and their families, with the testing to be done twice over a week following exposure. The schools will rely on the honor system, "either by the child if they're old enough, or by the parent," to attest that a test is negative, according to Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city's health commissioner.

The scientific consensus is that children are exponentially less likely to come down with the virus, and schools are far less likely to be places where it’s transmitted.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams noted that 98% of close contacts in school, such as a classmate, have been found not to catch the virus.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who wants school districts around the state to adopt Test to Stay policies, said students must be kept in school, in person. During much of 2020, tens of millions of students around the city and country were forced into remote learning.

"We saw the failed experiment, despite the very best efforts of incredibly hardworking, passionate teachers who did their very best with remote teaching, and the parents who were just pulling their hair out at kitchen tables, trying to make sure that it worked successfully," she said at de Blasio's news conference.

Dr. Mitch Katz, head of the city's public hospital and health clinics, said he thinks families would heed the home test results and wouldn't send an infectious child to school.

"The test kits, I've certainly done them myself. They're not, you know, super easy, but with the instructions, they are entirely doable. You have to read the instructions. If you read the instructions, you will get it right," he said.

Also Tuesday, de Blasio said the amount of so-called surveillance testing of students and school personnel each week would be doubled. Since schools reopened, the city has been testing a sample of students and personnel to measure the extent of the virus' spread.

"Greater sample size in each school, so we get even more accurate, clear results," he said.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are to be tested alike, he said.

In a news release, Michael Mulgrew, head of the city labor union the United Federation of Teachers, said: "Teachers are prepared to do their jobs starting January 3rd. The real issue is whether the city can do its job — ensuring that new testing initiatives are available in every school."

Sign up to get text alerts about COVID-19 and other topics at newsday.com/text.

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

Latest video

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.