New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is promising a full reopening of the nation's largest public school system in September. That means in person, five days a week, with no remote option for students to attend school exclusively online. He made the announcement on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Monday.
"You can't have a full recovery without full strength schools," de Blasio said in the segment.
Almost 70% of the nation's students attend schools that are currently offering full-time in-person learning, according to the organization Burbio. De Blasio's announcement comes a week after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that there would be no remote option for that state's public school students come September.
But questions remain about how New York City will be able to accommodate 100% of its public school students in person. Some administrators worry there won't be enough space to fit all students in classrooms under current social distancing requirements. At a city council hearing last week, officials testified that all but 10% of the city's about 1,800 public schools could fit their students into classrooms 3 or more feet apart.
At a press conference Monday, the mayor said that he believes schools could make 3-feet social distancing work, but that he expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will relax the requirements more by August.
Meanwhile, many New York City parents have expressed reluctance around in-person schooling. Data from the U.S. Education Department shows students of color are less likely than white students to be learning in person, as of March. Communities of color in the U.S. have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In New York, Asian and Black families in particular have been more likely to keep their children home, according to demographic data released by the city. Parents there have cited virus safety concerns, a lack of trust in the school system and fear of discrimination in or on the way to school as reasons for keeping their children home.
Some parents have said they won't feel comfortable until their children are vaccinated, while others have said they prefer remote learning, because it works better for their children academically or socially.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city's largest teachers union, wrote in the New York Daily News last week that the city must maintain a remote learning option for a limited number of families next school year. On Monday, Mulgrew said, "We still have concerns about the safety of a small number of students with extreme medical challenges. For that small group of students, a remote option may still be necessary."
But some education leaders have argued that offering a remote option would keep more students out of classrooms.
De Blasio said parents will be welcomed back to schools starting in June to ask questions and get answers from educators, as well as to see how schools are keeping students and staff safe.
And remote learning isn't completely going away in New York City. Earlier this month, officials said public school students will learn remotely on Election Day, instead of having the usual day off from school, and class will no longer be suspended on "snow days."
The first day of school in New York City is Sept. 13.
Nicole Cohen contributed to this report.