NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Eric Adams said Friday he's going to make sure schools stay open.
At the same time, city officials are negotiating a temporary return to remote learning for tens of thousands of students who aren't showing up for class, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.
Since he took office two weeks ago, Mayor Adams has been telling parents that, even in times of soaring COVID cases, the safest place for their kids is in the classroom.
Friday he offered some statistics to back it up after disclosing that 22,000 of the city's nearly one million students recently tested positive for COVID.
"The real analysis that shows we were on the right path. Children who were home had a 15% increase or possibility of being exposed. Check out what the number was if they were in school. One percent," Adams said.
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It was Adams' latest effort to find some way to lure the 200,000 students who haven't been showing up back into the classroom.
Adams said he's working with the teachers union to develop what he calls a temporary remote learning option for kids who get sick or who are not coming to school over COVID fears.
Education experts told CBS2 it's an option that may have to be much more than temporary because Omicron isn't going to be the last variant to hit the Big Apple.
The unanswered question is what remote learning will look like. Clearly, it will be much different than the de Blasio-era programs, which failed many students.
In the past, the UFT has favored something called the "academy approach," where teachers skilled in remote learning would teach groups of six, maybe grouped by grade, maybe by subject matter.
The goal is to find some way to do it so each school doesn't have to develop its own remote program. It could be done on a borough-wide basis or possibly based on community school district lines.
Meanwhile, school officials are trying to figure out just why kids are staying home. Average attendance Thursday was 77%.
CBS2 asked the Department of Education for answers, demanding to know just what they're doing to identify kids who are staying home. Reluctantly, a spokesman disclosed there are:
- 250 attendance teachers in the city's nearly 1,800 schools whose job is to reach chronically absent students,
- Something called "success mentors" to do interventions, and
- Community and faith-based organizations to support students.
"Our educators work every day to connect with families and remove any barriers to attendance, because children are safest in schools," the spokesperson said.
The mayor continued to reiterate his position that schools must stay open, just as New York City businesses must bring their workers back.
"Schools are not closing. To be very clear on that, we are not closing our schools," Adams said. "We are now speaking with the UFT on different methods on how we can make sure our children are educated in a very safe environment."
Sources told CBS2 that talks between the Department of Education, City Hall and UFT are expected to go on throughout the weekend - even on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
All sides realize the need for a quick and efficient solution.
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