A masked student attends classes at P.S. 188 The Island School in New York City on September 29. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
April 26 (UPI) -- More than 50,000 students were allowed to return to public schools in New York City on Monday in the final opt-in period for in-person learning during the current school year.
With the majority of the city's nearly 1 million students still choosing to learn online due to the COVID-19 threat, the additional students allowed to return Monday boost those attending in person to about 378,000 -- or about 40% of all students.
For the 51,000 students returning Monday, it's the first time they will see classrooms in more than a year. All students in New York City were forced to stay home early last year after the coronavirus outbreak arrived in the United States.
The new opt-in session came after federal health officials last month reduced the recommended distance between students from 6 to 3 feet.
Monday's change allows schools, students and parents to prepare for the next academic school year in a few months.
"It's too early to be able to tell you everything about September. But I can tell you this much: We want every child back in the classroom, and we're planning on every child being back in the classroom," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, according to WABC TV. "A lot could happen between now and September."
Earlier this month, De Blasio said disruption of schedules, not safety, is the primary reason only 50,000 students signed up to return Monday.
Some parents have been disappointed with in-class learning, as about 40% of teachers are still on medical leave.
Also on Monday, movie theaters, museums and zoos are allowed to increase capacity. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that museums and zoos could open to 50% capacity and cinemas 33%.
All three have been operating at a maximum of 25% capacity.
Lower coronavirus transmission rates are allowing the return to more normalcy in the city. Cuomo called the seven-day positivity rates "stable and going down" and he's also discussing possibly increasing capacity for Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks home games from 10% to 25% for the NBA playoffs.
Health officials say the city's seven-day average for new cases is below 2,200 for the first time since November.
January 31, 2020
National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo