School children wearing face masks.
New York City public schools, the largest public school system in the country, closed this week, under orders by Mayor Bill de Blasio. As the early stages of the winter coronavirus surge begin to hit New York, rising from 1% to 3% test positivity rate, more than 700,000 of the over 1 million students who had been attending school are being sent home for remote learning for the foreseeable future. The mayor’s initial decree to open schools just weeks ago was considered a bold one, as New York had been last spring’s national epicenter of coronavirus infections, combined with the challenge of managing ongoing smaller outbreaks in a wide range of New York City neighborhoods. The second largest school system, in Los Angeles, never fully opened, but has and continues to have limited students with high needs attending school in-person throughout the city.
Parents in New York are outraged. While the city’s coronavirus test positivity rate has tripled in recent weeks, students, teachers, and staff have remained remarkably safe. Since October, there have been 140,000 coronavirus tests issued to students and staff. There have been 308 positive, with a test positivity rate of 0.23%. Indeed, schools may be safer spaces, not only with respect to academic learning, socialization, food provision, and reduced domestic abuse, but also as spaces to reduce the spread of Covid-19 infections. Rule-following is always prioritized in the classroom. Masks, physical distance, and hygiene practices have been ramped up, and students and teachers alike are more apt to abide by these while at school than while out and about.…