New York City schools will start the new academic year with revised COVID-19 guidelines. The Department of Education released guidelines on Tuesday, August 16th that relayed the application of the revised health protocols.
The health protocols reiterated that vaccination is the best way to prevent severe illness from COVID-19. “Vaccination remains the single best protection against severe illness caused by COVID-19,” said city health department spokesperson Michael Lanza. Students have never been required to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, with city data showing that about 43% of children under 17 are fully vaccinated. Less than 50% of elementary school-aged children have received both doses of the vaccine. Vaccination is required for visitors, including parents, entering school buildings and those who participate in high-risk extracurricular activities. Activities that these requirements have disrupted include a variety of sports, certain musical activities, and cheerleading amongst others.
“Many high-risk extracurricular activities performed indoors are strenuous, and entail closer contact than classroom activities,” Lanza said. “The guidance is intended to keep kids safe both in class and within these after-school activities,” he said. The protocols also require schools to be well ventilated and equipped with at least two air purifiers per classroom.
The continued application of the guideline that prevents children from participating in sports received criticism from certain quarters. Coach George Lanese from About-U Outreach, which focuses on teaching children and having them play sports at the same time, felt as though certain people in New York’s society received favorable treatment. “Kyrie Irving was allowed to play. We make exceptions for people who make money,” said Lanese referring to the school guidelines compared to the rules for professional athletes.
All DOE employees and people who work in DOE buildings need to be vaccinated. This requirement led to about 1,000 school workers losing their jobs for not complying with the mandate. According to reports, 82 teachers had allegedly provided fraudulent forms of proof that they had been vaccinated. These teachers had been suspended but were eventually placed back on payroll, pending an investigation by the DOE.
The guidelines have discontinued daily health screeners and random in-school testing. The mask mandate in schools ended during the 2021-2022 school year. The guidelines call for COVID-19 testing in the event that students or teachers are exposed to the virus. Schools will send those who have come in contact with the virus home with two tests to be taken four to five days after exposure. Parties exposed to COVID-19 are not required to wear masks according to the guidelines but are strongly recommended to do so. Masks are a requirement for those who test positive for COVID-19 after they return to school, having to wear a mask for ten days after symptoms begin or the first positive test.