NYC families prepare for reopening of middle schools

On Thursday, Megan Cossey's 12-year-old son will be back in a routine for the first time since November. Her son will be going back to in-person learning as middle schools reopen citywide in New York.

"Just him getting dressed and going on the subway and having somewhere to go to in the morning is so important right now," Cossey said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said schools have proven to be the safest places in the city during the pandemic, and he hailed the city's rigorous in-school COVID-19 testing protocol.

"School coming back tomorrow is another step forward in this recovery," de Blasio said. "What we did became the gold standard for the entire United States of America."

Cossey and other parents beg to differ.

"New York City is the gold standard for pretending to open schools but in reality keeping them closed," she said.

While 62,000 or so middle school students who have opted-in for in-person learning will return to the classroom a few days a week, the fear is many of the schools will still end up closed for two weeks at a time because of the city's two-case rule, which mandates the closing of an entire school if there are two unrelated positive COVID tests.

"It's an arbitrary rule and it has nothing to do about safety or stopping the spread of COVID," Cossey said. "It has everything to do with politics."

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De Blasio has said previously he'd reevaluate that policy and we asked him about it again today. He stopped short of promising to get rid of it.   

"Clearly we're reevaluating that, we want to find a way to handle things that focuses on health and safety first but keeps kids in school more," he said.

The United Federation of Teachers, which has backed the two-case policy from the beginning, referred FOX 5 NY to a prior statement from union head Michael Mulgrew.

"The UFT will be monitoring to ensure that the testing regimen, the presence of personal protective equipment and social distancing requirements are strictly adhered to as new grades and buildings reopen," Mulgrew said. "These strict standards, and the requirement that buildings close temporarily when virus cases are detected, have made our schools the safest places to be in our communities during the pandemic. They will continue to be the strongest protections for the health and safety of students and staff."

As for when high schools might reopen, the mayor said he would have an announcement on a plan in "the next few weeks."