The Outlook for Public Schools in N.Y.C.

The temporary closures of schools that have frustrated parents may soon become less common under new virus rules.,

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It’s Friday.

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Weather: Mostly cloudy with a high in the low 60s. There’s a slight chance of showers this afternoon and through the evening. Tonight will be partly cloudy and in the low 50s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until April 29 (Holy Thursday, Orthodox).


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Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

Temporary shutdowns may soon be less common in New York City public schools.

Until now, school buildings have closed for 10 days when two unrelated coronavirus cases were detected, regardless of the source of infection.

But on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new policy: Starting next week, schools can remain open unless there are four or more confirmed cases in separate classrooms within a seven-day period. The city’s contact-tracing program must also determine that the infections originated inside a school before that school closes for 10 days.

I asked my colleague Eliza Shapiro, who covers education in New York City, about the change — and the overall outlook for public schools. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Q: How was the previous school-closings rule affecting parents and educators?

A: The previous rule applied to school buildings themselves. So you could have had a middle school with two cases on one floor and an elementary school with zero cases on the floor below — and both schools would have to close.

In the last month or so, there was just this drumbeat of frustration and anger from families who felt like the rule was incredibly disruptive for them. And a lot of educators didn’t like it either, in terms of switching at the drop of a hat between remote and in-person.

Now, they’re focusing on individual schools, rather than buildings. [Read more about the other changes.]

Q: The deadline for families to opt for in-person classes instead of remote learning is today. What might the rest of this school year hold?

We don’t know how many families will ultimately opt in. But based off what the mayor has said, we can expect it to be tens of thousands.

It’ll mean something different at every school: In some, many more students would be able to come back five days a week. But in others, those numbers would be lower since there’s less overall space.

Shifting social-distancing guidance could also affect the outlook for some grade levels.

Q: And what about the fall?

The mayor has tried to put his stake in the ground, saying we’re going to have as close to a normal school year as possible starting this September. And if vaccinations continue and virus variants don’t change the game, it’s highly likely.

Q: What other obstacles to a full reopening exist?

One big question will be what safety protocols look like. Most kids will not be vaccinated, and we’ll have to consider what virus testing, physical distancing and socialization now mean.

There are also still many families who have real concerns about sending their children back, even in the fall, which the city will have to address.

Hundreds of people are still without a home days after a fire erupted at their apartment complex in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. [CBS New York]


The Times’s Melissa Guerrero writes:

Although many performance spaces, museums and community centers are closed, people are finding creative ways to connect through virtual events and programs. Here are suggestions for maintaining a New York social life this weekend while keeping a safe distance from other people.

Visit West Harlem Arts’ new exhibit “Resilience,” which commemorates the work and resiliency of visual artists in West Harlem, and in nearby neighborhoods, during the pandemic.

Explore the exhibit on the website.

Watch a screening of short films about mental health, made by young filmmakers, on Friday at 6 p.m. Attendees can attend the post-screening Q. and A.

R.S.V.P. is free on the event page.

On Sunday at 10 a.m., in honor of Earth Day later this month, learn how to craft plantable recycled seed paper with wildflower seeds.

Register on the event page.

It’s Friday — enjoy the weekend!


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Dear Diary:

It was two days after my 28th birthday and the middle of a blizzard in February 2017. I went to a meeting and afterward, with the rest of the day halted because of the weather, I stopped at Veselka to drink coffee and eat at the counter.

I struck up a conversation with a young man who was sitting to my left. He said he was about to embark on a nine-hour bike messenger shift.

He had a thin mustache and tangly, Kurt Cobain-style blond hair and was dressed all in black . Underdressed, really, with just a leather motorcycle jacket as his only defense against the ceaseless snow. He ordered challah French toast, eggs over easy and kielbasa.

“My family keeps sending me pictures from home, in Florida,” he said.

“But do you want to be in Florida?” I asked.

“Hell, no,” he replied.

A woman came in and sat down to my right. She ordered borscht and told me that she had been coming there for 30 years. The slice of bread that came with the soup used to be twice as thick, she said.

We talked about politics and mindfulness and being strangely attracted to men while ovulating. She told me that B&H Dairy had vegetarian liver on the menu in 1974.

She said she had an older dog that woke her up too early sometimes. She said she was striving to live in the moment. One day the dog would be gone, she said, and she would curse the days she now took for granted.

She thought the bike messenger and I were related.

“Is that your bro?” she asked, smiling. “Your little bro?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “We’re all just here by chance.”

— Marilyn Haines


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