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December reopening

Read the DOE's Nov. 29 update for families

See the DOE student COVID-19 consent form 

Testing

How often are students and staff being tested for COVID-19?

All schools that reopened in December have 20% of in-person students and staff tested on a weekly basis, a much more stringent testing system than was in place in the first part of the school year. Under the previous protocol, up to 20 percent of the students were tested on a monthly basis.

Are students permitted to participate in in-person learning if they have not returned their consent form for COVID-19 testing?

All students in grade 1 or higher must have a consent form signed by a parent or guardian granting permission to be tested. Principals have been instructed that students without a consent form in hand or submitted online will not be allowed to participate in-person learning. The student will be moved to fully remote instruction if the parent does not immediately grant consent. The only exceptions are students who are medically exempt and students with disabilities who are granted an exemption because they cannot safely be tested at school. Students with a disability-based exemption must be tested outside of school if they are selected for the random sample.

What are the protocols for testing and tracing should positive cases be discovered within a school building ?

The protocols for quarantining classrooms and school buildings when positive tests occur, established at the beginning of this school year, remain in place. The presence of a COVID-19 case or cases confined to one class will result in the class moving to remote instruction, while the entire school will go fully remote if there are two or more positive cases in a school that are not linked. Students or staff who test positive for the virus, even in the absence of symptoms, will be quarantined for 10 days. City tracing teams will be dispatched to school immediately to determine potential contacts.

What benchmarks or triggers would lead to a school in an orange zone closing?

In addition to the current standard of two or more cases of COVID-19 found in a school that are not linked leading to a school closure, any school in a state-designated orange zone will be closed if that school's test positivity rate reaches 2% or higher.

Which students will not be part of weekly COVID-19 testing once schools have reopened?

Students in 3K, pre-K and kindergarten, students who are medically exempt, and students with disabilities who are granted an exemption because they cannot safely be tested at school will not be part of the mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing. Students with a disability-based exemption will need to be tested outside of school. Consent forms are not required for these students.

Why are 3K, pre-K and K students exempt from testing? 

The youngest students are exempt because studies show that they are not significant transmitters of the coronavirus and school officials believed these children would find the test upsetting without a parent present. All 3K, pre-K and kindergarten staff will be tested in every school as part of the random 20% weekly sample.

Can parents be present when their children are tested for COVID-19 at schools? Can parents provide test results from a private health care provider instead? 

No, parents must consent to their child being tested in school without them being present. Private test results are not a substitute and will not count as part of in-school COVID-19 testing. The only exception is for students with a documented disability who also have an approved testing exemption on file and must be tested outside of school. The COVID-19 tests used in schools involve inserting a small swab, similar to a Q-Tip, into the front of the nose.

Are students who are medically exempt from testing required to submit consent forms?

No, but documentation is required to receive an exemption from testing. Any student who needs a medical exemption, due to a health condition that would make it unsafe to undergo testing, must submit an exemption form signed by a physician along with medical documentation from a health care provider. Students with disabilities who cannot be safely tested in school due to the nature of their disability may also be granted an exemption. Exemption forms can be found on the DOE's COVID-19 testing page

If a student has a medical condition which makes COVID-19 testing physically impossible for that student, can they receive an exemption?

Yes, the parent/caregiver of a student with a health condition that would make it unsafe to undergo testing (.e.g., facial trauma, nasal surgery) can use the DOE’s Student Medical Exemption form. This form must be signed by a health care provider and must be approved by the DOE's Office of School Health’s Medical Review Unit to take effect.

If a student has a documented disability that could make school-based COVID-19 testing difficult, can they receive an exemption?

Parents/caregivers of students with disabilities may apply for a disability based exemption from in person testing for their child. The exemption will be granted if the school psychologist determines that school based testing would be dangerous for the student or school/testing personnel or traumatic for the student. Exempted students will still be asked to get tested for COVID-19 outside of school, such as a test administered by a private doctor or a city testing site. An approved DOE Disability-Based Exemption form must be approved by the school's psychologist to receive this exemption and can be found on the DOE's COVID-19 testing page. If exemption requests are denied, students are then required to either submit a consent for testing or choose remote learning.

What happens if a student with a disability who has an approved disability-based exemption on file is selected for random COVID-19 testing at school?

If a student is selected for in-school testing but has an approved disability exemption on file, the student will be asked to get tested outside of school within seven days of notice and must bring test results into school upon completion. Students who submit exemption requests are allowed to attend while their exemption requests are under review for approval. If you need help arranging a test, please see nyc.gov/covidtest or schools.nyc.gov/covidtesting.

How can families submit consent forms for COVID-19 testing at schools?

Families can fill out the consent form online using a New York City Schools Account (NYCSA). Parents can also print a PDF of the form, available in 10 languages, on the DOE’s COVID-19 Testing page, and return it to their school on or before the first day their child comes to school.

What happens if a parent expresses disagreement with the school testing policy?

Parent disagreement with the testing policy is not a basis for an exemption or a factor to be considered in reviewing an exemption request.

What happens if an in-person school employee does not sign the form consenting to be tested? 

All in-person staff in all job titles must sign the testing consent form before entering their school building in December. If a school employee is selected for random testing and refuses to be tested, that employee will be put on unpaid leave until the person takes the test. Refusal to be tested will now have real consequences for staff and students alike. Staff can submit consent using the DOE’s Health Questionnaire app or using a paper form(login required).

Blended learning

Did the city phase out blended learning in its December reopening plan? 

The blended learning model has been difficult for students and educators alike, so the DOE has made a push to reduce blended learning as much as possible. When feasible, principals have reprogrammed their schools to facilitate as much in-person learning as possible. Schools must continue to abide by all the safety and social-distancing protocols established in the September safety plan. 

The ability to accommodate more in-person instruction varies from school to school, depending on the available staff and space. Principals now know the exact number of in-person students they have so they can program for that number. Schools had fewer in-person students show up in September than they had anticipated, but many schools did not reprogram to maximize in-person instructional time at that point.

Can students who are currently fully remote opt in to return to in-person learning?

Only the approximately 190,000 students who were already participating in blended learning or who opted in for blended learning by the city’s deadline of Nov. 15 can return to in-person learning in December. Students whose parents selected remote-only instruction will remain remote for the remainder of the school year.

Are students able to attend school in-person every day?

The DOE is instructing principals to reprogram their schools to enable as much in-person learning as possible while abiding by all the safety and social-distancing protocols established in September. Schools can resume in-person instruction five days a week if they can do it safely.

Will schools be allowed to ignore social-distancing protocols and increase the number of students in a classroom so all in-person students can attend classes five days a week? 

No, all safety and social-distancing requirements remain in effect. Schools may provide in-person instruction five days a week only if they can do so safely.In-person class sizes can only increase when a classroom did not previously have the maximum number of in-person students that it could safely accommodate with social distancing in effect. 

How will in-person staff shortages affect the ability of schools to allow students to come to school five days a week?

Schools will be able to reduce the number of student cohorts and increase the amount of in-person instruction to the degree that they have the staff and space available with social-distancing protocols in effect. 

Will schools still honor approved SBOs on the teaching modalities and teacher programs?

To the extent that those SBOs are still relevant after schools reprogram to maximize in-person instructional time for students, they will be honored.

Staff and student reporting

When will students in grades 6-12 return to in-person learning?

The mayor said students in grades 6-12 will remain remote under further notice.

If I work in a K-8 or K-12 school, do I work in my school building ?

You need to be at your school building for that portion of your workday when you are assigned to work with in-person kindergarten through 5th-grade students. Where your schedule permits, you may work from home when working with your older students. If you only have responsibilities for students in grades 6 or higher, you will remain fully remote.

Why did the city decide to reopen schools just for District 75 students and students in grades 5 and under? 

  • Student need: Studies have shown that younger students and those with special needs suffered greater setbacks and will continue to face more obstacles with remote learning. Young children often need intensive parental supervision to navigate the technology and stay focused. 
  • Lower risk of viral transmission: Research, including a recent large scientific study, has also found that children younger than 10 transmit the coronavirus to others much less often than adults do. 
  • Testing capacity: The city does not have the capacity to roll out a weekly in-school testing program for 20% of staff and students across all 1,800 schools, so it decided to prioritize students who derive the most benefit from in-person learning.

Why are middle and high schools remaining remote for now? 

  • Adaptability to remote learning: Secondary school students, by and large, have been able to adapt to remote learning more successfully than elementary school students.
  • Higher risk of viral transmission: A recent large scientific study found that children between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do. Students travel from all over the city to reach their high schools so the risk of spreading the virus to new areas increases.
  • Lower in-person attendance: Significantly fewer middle and high school students opted for blended learning and showed up for classes, so the DOE determined that the payoff for resuming in-person learning would be less.

How did the state determine its color zones? 

The state’s designation of zones is based on a block-by-block level assessment, not strictly by region or zip codes. The state looks at a variety of data points to determine its zones, including the test positivity rate, positive cases per capita, hospital admissions for COVID, population density, the age and demographics of people testing positive and insights about sources of infection from contact tracing.

Yellow zone: The state’s target metric for designating a geographic area of New York City as a yellow zone is a 7-day rolling average positivity above 2.5% for 10 days and 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average.   

Orange zone: The state’s target metric for designating a geographic area of New York City as an orange zone is a seven-day rolling average positivity above 3% for 10 days and 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average.  

Red zone: The state’s target metric for designating a geographic area of New York City as a red zone is a seven-day rolling average positivity above 4% for 10 days, and 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average.

You can see what zone your school is in at http://nyc.gov/covidzone. To read more details about the state’s metrics and how areas can enter different zones, visit the state’s website. New York City is listed under “Tier 1."

Medical accommodations

Will school-based UFT members with medical accommodations be able to continue to work remotely?

Yes, all medical accommodations will continue to be honored through the end of the school year.

Travel quarantines

Do school staff and students who traveled out of state need to quarantine before returning to school?

Students and staff who have recently traveled outside of New York to a place on the state travel advisory list must quarantine for 10 days or test out of the quarantine based on the state’s latest guidance. Staff and students should continue to complete the health questionnaire daily.