Mayor Bill De Blasio Says Classrooms Can Accommodate More Students Under New CDC Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new social distancing guidelines for schools Friday. Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio says classrooms can accommodate more students in person; CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports.

Video Transcript

DANA TYLER: Turning now to the coronavirus pandemic, and today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new social-distancing guidelines for schools. So now Mayor de Blasio says classrooms can accommodate more students in person. CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas live in Astoria with more on how the mayor and the schools chancellor hope to get people back into their classrooms.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Well, Dana, starting on Monday, the opt-in period will begin. That means parents can sign up their kids for in-person learning. The Department of Education will start with 3-K, pre-K, elementary school, and students with disabilities. But again, this plan is short on some key details.

BILL DE BLASIO: We are confident that we'll be able to bring back a substantial number of students by the end of April.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Mayor de Blasio, flanked by new schools chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, announced more students will be able to return to New York City schools in person. This in response to newly released CDC guidelines that reduces six feet social distancing requirements to three feet when coupled with other safety measures like mask wearing and hand washing, allowing more kids in the classroom.

MEISHA ROSS PORTER: We want to know parents who feel ready and are comfortable. And so we want to open that window so we see where our families are.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Starting next week, parents of students of all ages can opt in for in-person learning, but the youngest students will be first. The goal is to maintain the schedules of existing in-person students while adding others and allowing as many students as possible to attend school five days a week. But even principals charged with making this work are just hearing about the plan.

What types of conversations have you all had with the principals prior to this?

BILL DE BLASIO: Those conversations are about to begin in earnest.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: In a tweet, former teacher and City Councilman Mark Treyger, who also chairs the education committee, said, quote, "hearing from many school leaders that they do not have enough staff to operationalize the mayor's announcement." And in a letter to its members the teachers union said, quote, "we want to consult with our trusted independent medical experts."

BILL DE BLASIO: Over 40,000 educators have been vaccinated, but that number is, we all think, low, meaning we think there are many other educators who are vaccinated. That just hasn't been reported in yet.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Schools have been safe as the COVID infection rate inside the buildings has remained very low, and students are struggling to learn at home. But how to bring even more back will be another difficult process.

While parents of middle- and high-school students can opt in, it's still unclear when those students can return to the classroom. The Department of Education says right now they really want to gauge interest, and the city says more information is forthcoming. Reporting live from Astoria, Queens, Aundrea Cline-Thomas, CBS2 News.

DANA TYLER: Aundrea, thank you.