Despite a 67% attendance rate on the first day back after winter break, Schools Chancellor David Banks said Monday’s return to classrooms went “extremely well” and that he’s confident in the city’s expanded COVID-19 testing program at public schools.
Speaking with NY1 political anchor and host of “Inside City Hall” Errol Louis, Banks said city schools had “over 600,000 young people who came to school today,” and added that he expects attendance numbers to rise in the coming days.
“People were watching what was going on today, and things went extremely well. In fact, the numbers were a little bit higher than what it was right before everyone went on break,” Banks said.
The attendance rate for New York City public schools on the final day before winter break was 65%, according to the DOE.
“We feel good about it, that the numbers are solid and that they are going to continue to rise every day. That’s what we expect,” Banks added.
Pre-pandemic, the average attendance rate was about 91%. The Department of Education says attendance is typically lower on the first day back from the holiday break, pointing out that in 2019 it was at 84%.
As for whether he and Adams ever seriously considered closing schools temporarily after break, Banks said that they had not because, “based on the science, we realized that the safest place for our kids to be is actually in schools.”
Citing city health department data, Adams earlier Monday said just 1% of students are infected by COVID-19 while in school.
Also bolstering his confidence, Banks said, was the delivery over break of more than 1.5 million rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits to public schools.
Under current guidelines, a student with a known exposure inside a classroom will be sent home with a COVID-19 test. If that student tests negative and experiences no symptoms, they are free to return to the classroom.
It’s a change from previous policies, Banks said, which mandated that students quarantine for 10 days after a close exposure inside a classroom, regardless of whether they showed symptoms or not. Students who test positive in New York still have to quarantine for 10 days.