By Amelia Roth-Dishy
Schools on the Upper West Side were once again a hub of morning activity this week as elementary students resumed in-person instruction for the first time since November 18. As cases steadily mount across the city, pandemic precautions anchored the scenes of normalcy in our present reality.
Outside P.S. 452 on 61st and Amsterdam Avenue on Monday, teachers took students’ temperatures before they could enter the building. A few kids trickled out of the yellow school buses lined up along 61st. Parents, students, and teachers alike wore masks.
Chancellor Carranza announced this return to a hybrid model for grades 3K-5 on November 29, less than two weeks after the mayor’s 3% positive test rate threshold prompted the Department of Education to temporarily close all school buildings. District 75, which encompasses the preponderance of the DOE’s specialized instruction for students with learning challenges, will welcome students back in-person on Thursday, December 10. Students in middle and high schools, Chancellor Carranza wrote in his email to families, “will continue to learn remotely until further notice.”
Leading up to the reopening, families were required to submit a form consenting to COVID-19 testing for their child, which will be administered to a random sample of school occupants— both students and faculty— each week.
It is difficult to know yet just how many students will actually show up for in-person learning as the year comes to a close. Individual schools must adapt the new DOE guidelines to a model that fits with their numbers. P.S. 163 on West 97th St., for example, is utilizing full remote instruction on Mondays, with students who have opted into hybrid learning split into two pods that will each enter the building two days per week. Principal Donny Lopez said in a town hall last week that only 20 additional families had opted into in-person classes during the last possible window, allowing the school to transition from three pods with class sizes of 3-5 students to two pods with an average of 8-10 students per classroom.
Given the whiplash that school communities have endured this semester as they open and close and open again, some confusion is to be expected. At P.S. 452, a student arrived at the gate with a parent, only to discover that he was not on the list for entering the building that day.
“Okay,” he said jovially to the teacher. “See you tomorrow!”
Clarification: We originally mischaracterized the total number of students enrolled in hybrid learning at PS 163. There are 20 additional families that enrolled during the latest opt-in period, not 20 families total.