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New York to close schools

The nation’s largest school system is set to close classrooms as coronavirus cases increase.

New York, once the global epicenter of the pandemic, has community infection rates well below those of most countries, but the numbers are growing rapidly. On Friday, the seven-day test positivity rate rose to 2.8%. If that rate reaches 3%, schools are supposed to close, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said that could happen as early as Monday.

“This decision – which is now seen by some city hall officials as a question of when, not if – would be perhaps the most significant setback to take over the city to date,” wrote our colleague Eliza Shapiro, which covers schools in New York.

Hundreds of thousands of parents (including Adam, who has two young daughters in public school) have cobbled together ways to send their children to class during this fractured school year, even for a few days a week.

For many, the impending reversal is a punch. Schools posted exceptionally few infections and positivity rates well below the city average. And, as regular readers of this newsletter know, experts say children, especially those of primary school age, are not at high risk of spreading the virus.

“You are less likely to meet an infected person in a school than you would be outside of school, and not just a little but a lot,” said Dr Jay Varma, senior advisor at the school, last month. mayor for public health.

And the evidence that eating indoors is a high-risk activity has continued to grow. Crowded restaurants, gyms, cafes and other indoor venues that accommodate adults likely accounted for eight in 10 new infections in the first months of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, according to a new analysis that used data from mobile phone mobility from 10 US cities from March to May.

But in New York City – and other cities across the country that have closed schools or delayed reopening – restaurants, bars and gyms remain open.

“The fact that New York’s public schools have to shut down because the city and state felt they should just let people dine inside and work out in a gym, whatever we need to know how much our society values ​​public education ”. our colleague Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote on Twitter, “Especially when it comes to low-income black and brown children.”

There is no simple solution to the dilemma. Teachers are understandably worried about contracting the coronavirus at work. Their unions firmly hold the city to keep its promise to close schools if virus rates cross a threshold.

But officials must also strike a balance between the livelihoods of restaurateurs and other service sector workers, many of whom are low-income and of color, and attempts to save lives during the pandemic. Policymakers also need to weigh the survival of today’s economy against the education of a generation of children, as Eliza and our colleague Sharon Otterman reported today.

Nonetheless, Eliza and Sharon wrote: “The city seems to be heading for a new, jarring status quo, requiring hundreds of thousands of children to learn in front of their laptops even as New Yorkers are still making reservations for the. dine inside.

Takeaway meals: New York City may soon clamp down on children’s movements and learning ability, even though adults are the ones spreading the virus. “Ending face-to-face teaching now would be a mistake,” the Times editorial board wrote this week in an op-ed titled “New York City must take a break for classroom meals.”

The cost: E-learning has had serious consequences for academic progress and students ‘mental health, for their parents’ lives and livelihoods, and for the rate at which cities and countries may begin to recover from disasters. health and economic issues that the virus had triggered.

The global context: Many Western European countries have prioritized keeping classrooms open over bars and restaurants, even as cases mount. NPR wrote a smart analysis how Europe did it.

“I felt like I was trapped in my own little house and everyone was far away,” Aya Raji, a 14-year-old student in Brooklyn, told our colleague Emma Goldberg. “I was so alone. All the sad things I used to clean up, I realized I couldn’t erase them anymore.

Before the pandemic, she took classes, organized movie nights for friends, and did kick-flips with her skate club. Then when the schools closed, she stayed at home. Nothing could distract her from the sad news, as she stared at her laptop for hours during virtual lessons. She stayed awake until 4 a.m., her mind racing with anxiety.

“A lot of adults think teenagers have it easy,” she says. “But that’s what strikes us the most.”

A recent study found that nearly a third of 3,300 high school students reported feeling miserable or depressed in recent months. Warning signs include severe risky behavior, significant weight loss, excessive drug or alcohol use, and drastic mood changes, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

An academic perspective: “Students who desperately needed mental health resources during a global pandemic have been left in the dark,” wrote Bridget Early and Andrew Favakeh, student journalists at Butler University, in an opinion piece on the effects of quarantine on mental health.

  • After weeks of single-digit cases, University of West Virginia reported more than 60 positive test results over a three-day period last weekend. Social gatherings and coronavirus fatigue are to blame, Duncan Slade reported for The Daily Athenaeum.

  • A good read: When the students of Loyola University New Orleans, test positive, they get a call from a classmate. A team of eight student-employees is responsible for calling infected peers to conduct contact tracing. Now the cases are increasing. “It has been absolute chaos,” a tracer student told Emma Ruby at the Maroon. “It went from four to five calls a day to 26 or 27 calls. I have been working for 15 minutes and called 11 people. “

We would be delighted to continue to provide student stories. Please email Amelia with links.

  • DetroitPublic schools have stopped all in-person classes as cases increase.

  • New Jersey does not yet plan to close its 3,000 schools, the state governor said Thursday. But some individual districts will suspend in-person learning until 2021. Others have had to switch to distance learning because many staff are in quarantine.

  • In Bellevue, Washington., a small group of parents and students gathered to protest the closure of schools. “I want my teachers to know that I’m having trouble in school and that I need help,” said a 15-year-old.

  • In Boston, students at four public schools may be able to return to class on Monday, although the teachers’ union has yet to approve the plan.

  • Chronic absenteeism increased by 89% among 11 primary students California districts, compared to this time of last year, reported 74.

  • Rising cases in Minnesota moved teachers away from classrooms. Today, schools are struggling to find substitute teachers, even though classroom transmission is less than what experts feared.

  • A good read: The pandemic is tearing education apart. Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator, writes in The Atlantic that distance learning exposes in-person education issues that have plagued students for years.

Our colleague Dani Blum asked parents across the country what raising children was like during the pandemic. The health crisis started when Cece Flores’ son was 4 months old. Since then, they have barely left their Montreal neighborhood.

“From the second I wake up until the moment my son falls asleep, I’m just over him,” she said. “I don’t really have a lot of time for myself. It’s just 100% parenting. “

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