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Over 50,000 N.Y.C. Public School Students Will Return to Classrooms

Starting later this month, about 51,000 New York City public school students who have been learning remotely for the past year will be able to return to classrooms, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday, including middle and high school students.

The announcement marks one of the most significant changes prompted by last month’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that schools could reduce social distancing between students in classrooms to three feet from six. For now, only elementary schools will switch to three feet.

Students in all grades who signed up for in-person classes over the last several weeks will be able to return starting April 26, Mr. de Blasio said. Previously, the city had committed only to bringing back elementary school students who wanted to switch to in-person classes.

Though a large number of families are eager for their children to return to classrooms, the families of about 650,000 of the city’s roughly 1 million students have decided to have them continue learning from home through the end of the school year in June. The families have made that choice even though the city schools have had very low transmission, and tens of thousands of educators are fully vaccinated. Last week, the city also eased a school closure rule that had led to frequent temporary closures, which frustrated many parents.

It is difficult to generalize why hundreds of thousands of families have chosen to keep their children home. Some parents may prefer a remote schedule for the next few months for the sake of consistency. Other families have expressed concern about stubbornly high test positivity rates in New York City. Some parents of high school students in particular are concerned that their students would be learning from their laptops even in classrooms.

Mr. de Blasio has said he expects most schools to offer full-time instruction for all or most students for the final months of the school year, though some children will still be able to attend in person only for a few days a week. The mayor said the school system would be operating at full capacity come September, with all students able to attend school full-time.

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N.Y.C.’s mayor says a new virus rule will reduce temporary public school closures.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced a plan on Thursday that he said would significantly reduce the temporary public school closures that have frustrated parents and educators across city over the last few months.

Starting on Monday, public schools will have to close for 10 days only if four or more coronavirus cases in separate classrooms are confirmed within a seven-day period, and only if the city’s contact tracing program determines that the infections originated inside the school. Until now, schools had to close for 10 days when two unlinked cases were detected, regardless of the source of infection.

The mayor said earlier this week that he would get rid of the so-called two-case rule, which had prompted more than 200 temporary school closures during the last two weeks of March.

The new rule now applies to individual schools, rather than entire buildings. Because many school buildings in New York house multiple schools, two virus cases in one middle school could force an elementary school with no cases on another floor to switch to remote learning for days under the old rule.

Schools with suspected cases will no longer close for 24 hours while health detectives determine whether cases are linked, a change that will eliminate the frequent short-term closures that were sometimes announced just a few hours before the start of the school day. One or more cases found in individual classrooms will continue to prompt temporary closures of that classroom, but not necessarily the whole school.

The city will increase testing in schools where at least two cases are found.

Fully vaccinated teachers — along with older high school students who will be eligible for vaccines this week — will no longer have to isolate even when classrooms quarantine. As of last Friday, well over 65,000 of the roughly 147,000 Department of Education employees had been vaccinated.

New York City parents have until the end of the day Friday to decide if they want to switch their children from remote learning to in-person classes.

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Returning to the Office Sparks Anxiety and Dread for Some

Last fall, after some of the restrictions had eased in Germany, Trivago, a travel company based in Düsseldorf, let employees work remotely three weeks of the month and then spend one week in the office. The office weeks were designed for collaboration and were treated like celebrations, with balloons hanging from the ceilings and employees plied with coffee and muffins, said Anja Honnefelder, the chief people officer and general counsel of the company.

But the experiment failed, she said. “We saw that many of the people only came back for two or three days during the week because it felt unnatural, all of the social interactions,” said Ms. Honnefelder, who described her staff as young and made up largely of software engineers and data scientists. “They felt like they couldn’t get their work done and that it was disorienting.”

So, in January, Trivago announced that employees would come back to the office two days a week, but it has not been able to implement the plan because Germany has imposed new restrictions because of a rise in coronavirus cases.

“What we think will happen is that employees will use the two days to socialize, have extended lunches and work with their teams because they know, for the rest of the week, they will have time to focus and manage their own work and not be distracted,” Ms. Honnefelder said.

The ability to focus on work without distractions from other employees is the main reason Mr. Jaakola, the Minneapolis software engineer, does not want to return to the office. He admits he finds dealing with other people kind of “draining,” and hopes his company won’t force him to return to the office, even for a few days a week.

“My sense is that my company will try to go back to how things were before and I think they’ll quickly realize there are a lot of remote possibilities out there for us,” he said. “If they try to force us to come in without a legitimate reason, I can get another job if I don’t want to come in.”

Gillian Friedman and Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.

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N.Y.C. public school students will have another chance, starting Wednesday, to opt in for in-person instruction.

New York City parents whose children have been learning remotely this year in the city’s public schools system will have another opportunity to sign up for in-person learning, starting this Wednesday until April 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

While all parents can indicate interest, the city only has plans for now to bring more elementary school students into school buildings in April. Mr. de Blasio said last week that younger grades will switch from six feet of distancing in classrooms to three feet, a change prompted by recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing in schools. The city has not yet determined whether it will shift the distancing rules for middle and high school students.

New York City high schools also opened for in-person classes on Monday for the first time since November. The mayor said that about half of high schools will be able to offer full-time instruction for students. But some parents have expressed frustration that their children are returning to high school classrooms where they will log onto remote school along with their peers learning from home, rather than getting typical classroom instruction.

Mr. de Blasio announced Monday that over 800 city schools have lost enrollment during the pandemic but will not lose funding as a result. Federal stimulus money has allowed the city to return roughly $130 million to schools that saw budget cuts earlier this school year, the mayor said.

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New York City to Hold a Virtual Covid Memorial on Sunday

Today, on the anniversary of the city’s first coronavirus-related death, New York City will hold a virtual memorial event honoring the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have died of the virus.

The virtual ceremony, which will include names and photographs of the deceased, will be streamed online on the city’s website and on social media platforms at 7:45 p.m. Families are being encouraged to submit photographs of their loved ones.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 30,000 people are known to have died in New York City in relation to the virus.

“We constantly talk about moving forward and our recovery, but we’ve got to take time to remember the people we’ve lost,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference Monday.

shut down schools, restaurants and bars. There were about 5,600 reported cases of the virus in the city at the time, but researchers have said that the virus was likely spreading in New York City earlier than residents realized.

The city soon became the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. Morgues, funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries were overwhelmed with bodies.

When asked if the city will create a permanent memorial to commemorate victims of virus, Mr. de Blasio said on Monday that the city will develop a plan for “a place that people can gather and remember their loved ones.”

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