It has been almost four months since more than one million children in New York City were banned from their classrooms to stop the spread of coronavirus and parents were tasked with educating their children.
And it is still two months away from the traditional start of public schools in September, but Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has announced that classroom attendance next year will be limited to one to three days a week.
The coronavirus is cited as the reason for the decision that will mean hundreds of thousands of parents will have to figure out how to care for and educate their children while working to pay the bills and put food on the table.
“Everyone is looking to the public school system to indicate the bigger direction of New York City,” de Blasio said of his plan on Wednesday.
The announcement comes as an increasing number of experts are talking about the lasting damage keeping children out of school could cause, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
Continued closures risk “scarring the life chances of a generation of young people,” according to an open letter published this month and signed by more than 1500 members of the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH). Virtual education is often a pale shadow of the real thing and left many parents juggling jobs and childcare. Lower-income children who depend on school meals were going hungry. And there were hints that children were suffering increased abuse, now that school staff could no longer spot and report early signs of it. It was time, a growing chorus said, to bring children back to school.
Outbreaks in schools are inevitable,” says Otto Helve, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. “But there is good news.” So far, with some changes to schools’ daily routines, he says, the benefits of attending school seem to outweigh the risks—at least where community infection rates are low and officials are standing by to identify and isolate cases and close contacts.