With the school having barely started, New York City parents already have issues with the measures the state put in place to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. For starters, it only takes one positive case for a whole class to get sent home for 10 days. Some parents question the rationale behind the policy. They say children should be able to remain in class, at least if they test negative themselves.

Sept. 13 was the first day of school, welcoming in person children in New York City and other districts for the first time since the pandemic started last year.

The city and state governments faced pressure from parents to fully reopen the city public schools for in-person learning, despite objections from the teachers unions.

The plan materialized with a litany of restrictions in place, including 3-foot distancing when possible, mandatory masks, and, at least at some schools, no indoor lunch, no talking during lunch, as well as a ban on extracurriculars like sports, band, or choir. A random 10 percent of students whose parents consented are tested every two weeks.

The masks and some of the other requirements are already hard to swallow for many parents who see them as unnecessary given the low chance of children getting seriously ill from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.

Now, to their further consternation, they see in-person learning easily turning into a mirage as even a single positive test for the virus among students relegates all of his or her “close contacts” to virtual-only instruction for 10 days. What counts as a “close contact?” Apparently, the whole class could, one parent has learned.

“Day 2 of school. A positive case was found in daughter’s classroom. 25 kids now have remote school for 10 days,” said Jill Goldstein, a self-described mom with a child in one of the city schools, in a Sept. 14 tweet.

“This is unacceptable.”

In her view, any “close contacts” just need to be tested and if negative, should be able to stay in school.

It’s likely most children would be allowed to stay. A study that looked at more than 36,000 NYC students marked as “close contacts” last fall found less than 200 tested positive.

“We found that in-person learning in NYC public schools was not associated with increased prevalence or incidence overall of COVID-19 infection compared with the general community,” it concluded.

The “close contact” policy is counterproductive, Goldstein argued, because it discourages parents from allowing their children to be tested.

“Parents are rescinding/not signing testing consent. Many parents have come to me privately … to tell me that they will not test their kids unless the child has symptoms,” she said in a Sept. 15 Twitter thread. “So essentially your policy PROMOTES less testing in order to keep classrooms open. The same kids whose parents gave consent will just be tested over and over all year.”

The school restrictions particularly irk some parents in contrast to the relatively more lenient rules for the adults.

“Adults in the United States are largely moving on with their lives, going to football games, concerts and galas—while kids are treated like lepers,” commented The New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz.

One online jokester suggested replacing desks in classrooms with restaurant tables, suggesting children could then remove their masks while seated, just as adults at restaurants can.

The New York State and New York City education departments didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Petr Svab


Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.

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