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New York students return to class as medical screening site collapses

A majority of New York City public school students returned for in-person learning on Monday for the first time in 18 months, a reset to the traditional school year after Covid-19 protocols upended classrooms. class across the country and exposed the current challenges for teachers, parents and children.

But already there were problems. The country’s largest school district, which serves around 1 million students, saw its medical screening website temporarily go down in the early hours of the morning. The site is intended for employees, students and visitors to register each day before they can enter a building operated by the city’s Department of Education.

In response, the agency said health exams could also be administered in schools or with a paper form. A request for further comment was not immediately returned.

The technical issue was frustrating for some parents who said it caused delays and long lines at schools, and they feared it was a sign of a tough learning year.

Katie Pawluk, who has four children enrolled in public schools in the city of Lower Manhattan, said the collapse of the medical screening site caused chaos at two of her children’s schools. But his concerns run deeper.

A student walks to school on the first day of school in Brooklyn, NY, September 13, 2021.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

She said that although the Department of Education “has had plenty of time to prepare for this school year and back to school in person,” she believes there is not enough space. so that students physically distance themselves and that there is no suitable accommodation – at least in her children’s schools – for time outdoors, including lunch.

“The fact that no remote option is available for medically fragile children is also extremely frustrating,” Pawluk added. “Children in economically disadvantaged schools and children too young to be vaccinated will be the most at risk. After 18 months without in-person schooling, I am delighted to send my children back to school, but I am very concerned that the health and safety of our children in New York public schools is not being taken as well. seriously as it should be. “

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and city schools chancellor Meisha Porter played down any issues and sought to make the return as normal as possible, starting the day at a Bronx public school with a bang. students.

“On the first day of school, a million kids, it’s going to overload things,” de Blasio told reporters in response to technical issues.

He said at a press conference on Monday that the school district is in a stronger position than last school year with two-thirds of eligible public school students currently vaccinated against Covid, vaccination sites in 700 schools are open and a full immunization mandate in place for two-week teachers.

Unions representing cleaning and janitorial staff also tweeted that workers were “in full force” to disinfect classrooms.

De Blasio first announced in May that public schools would reopen for the new school year without a distance option, stressing “it’s time for all of us to be together. It’s time to do things the way they were. supposed to be done “. Schools have been largely closed since March 2020.

While de Blasio initially encountered little resistance in the spring, the increase in cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus has left some parents and politicians to delay the full return, preferring to wait until children under 12 can also be vaccinated. About 600,000 student families chose to keep their children in distance learning during the last school year.

De Blasio said if there is any exposure at a school, those who are vaccinated and have no symptoms will not need to be quarantined and will remain in school according to federal government guidelines.

The mayor added that nearly 80% of all adults in New York City have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccination.

“This is a game-changer,” he told reporters, adding that he did not expect the same number of class closings and disruptions as last year.

Unlike other states, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has called for an all-school mask warrant for “anyone who enters a school building.”

While leaders in New York are optimistic that a school year with little disruption and as close to normal as possible is achievable, school districts in other states with higher cases of Covid and rates of weaker vaccinations are already facing their own chaotic school years.

In Texas, state attorney general Ken Paxton on Friday announced he was suing at least six districts that had defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s order banning mask warrants in public schools. Some school districts have faced outbreaks of Covid, forcing some classes and entire schools to temporarily close.

In Florida, an back-and-forth legal battle has ensued between Governor Ron DeSantis and schools trying to enforce mask requirements. On Friday, the Republican governor’s administration received approval to keep an ordinance in place banning mask warrants in schools while the measure passes through an appeals court.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District said last week it would require all students ages 12 and older to be fully immunized against Covid-19 by January 10, the first major school district in the United States. United to impose vaccination on eligible students.

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