Debate over students and staff returning for in-person learning

U.S.

NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — Middle schools in the nation’s largest public school system will welcome students back later this month, as the debate over reopening heats up across the country. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement Monday.

“I know our children are ready,” he said. “Our parents are ready.”

While Texas and Florida ordered publicly-funded schools to open, San Francisco sued its own school board to get kids back into classrooms and Chicago faced the threat of a teacher’s strike, with a tentative deal announced late Monday to allow an in-person option.

“It should not be that CPS (Chicago Public Schools) parents -of all the schools in our city- are the only ones that don’t have the option for in-person learning,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

NewsNation affiliates have been hearing from parents, teachers and politicians across the country, finding strong opinions on both sides of the issue — and a great deal of concern about the long-term impact to students of spending so much time without in-person learning.

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New York City parent Megan Cossey said she’s definitely noticed the impact on her son.

“We noticed that his math grade was down in the 70’s,” she told WPIX-TV. “And he was always a straight-A student.”

Nationally, many teachers and their unions have been pushing back against reopening plans, saying with more Americans getting the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s the wrong time to rush.

Long Island teacher Tracey Passamenti got her second shot on Monday, and says while she had great confidence in the precautions her district was taking, the vaccine has brought enormous peace of mind.

“You know, it’s a risk every day, despite the precautions, but I feel at peace,” Passamenti said, “now that I’m vaccinated and it’s 95%.”

In Raleigh, North Carolina, parent Kelly Mann told NewsNation affiliate WNCN she believes schools are safe and that kids belong in class.

“We have been worried about so many different members of our community,” she said, “but our leadership has not thought about children.”

New York City schools have been shut since November. Approximately 62,000 middle-schoolers who chose the in-person option for 2020 will be able to return Feb. 25. The city’s high schools will stay closed for now.

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