Sept. 13 (UPI) -- More than 1 million students in the nation's largest public school district will return to classrooms in New York City on Monday -- with no option for remote learning for the first time since the arrival of COVID-19.
The city's public schools first introduced a remote learning option in March 2020 when the coronavirus outbreak arrived in the United States. Classrooms reopened later last year but kept a remote option."We have been working for 18 months to get ready for this day," New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter told CNN.
School officials are requiring full vaccination for all teachers and staff at public schools, and children eligible to receive the vaccine -- those over 12 -- are strongly encouraged to do so.
Officials said students can be inoculated in schools during the first week of classes. Those who remain unvaccinated will be tested regularly.
Masks will also be required, and teachers have a deadline of Sept. 27 to receive at least one vaccine dose.
Officials say vaccinated students who test positive for COVID-19 but don't display symptoms won't have to quarantine, but will be encouraged to physically distance by 3 feet.
Vaccination is mandatory for those who participate in "high-risk" extracurricular activities like football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling and cheerleading.
"Our return to full-time, in-person learning starts with a safe and healthy learning environment for every student and staff member and ensuring students have the tools and support they need to succeed," New York City Schools said in a statement.
"Fall 2021 marks an important homecoming for our schools. [Monday], we begin the journey to recovery by welcoming New York City students back to school communities and classrooms where they can feel safe and well-cared for, and where they can learn and grow socially, emotionally and academically."
Some parents -- especially those with children under age 12 -- are trying to persuade the district to continue with a remote learning option.
"I refuse to send my grandchildren into a school where we don't know if it's safe," Sandra DeJesus told WABC-TV.
Some teachers have also called for a remote option and a delay for in-person classes until January.
"I understand the concerns that parents have," Porter said, according to WABC-TV. "That's why we moved to ensure that our entire workforce is vaccinated.
"I definitely understand parents' concerns, but ... research has shown our students have lost a lot over these last 18 months, and they need to be back in school."
As of last week, at least 20% of New York City schoolteachers had not received one vaccine dose.