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With staff sick, NYC charter shifts to remote learning

A Manhattan charter school is temporarily moving to remote learning because 17 of its 54 staff were sick on Tuesday, school officials said.

KIPP Washington Heights Middle School administrators told families in an email Tuesday that the school will go virtual Wednesday through Friday “due to staffing shortages associated with staff quarantine and positive COVID tests.” , wrote director Eric Cato.

The school has already scheduled a Thanksgiving break for all of next week, which means in-person classes will resume Nov. 29.

A KIPP spokesperson said the Washington Heights school is the only one in the network temporarily stepping away from health-related staffing issues.

“With COVID-19, RSV and Influenza on the rise and affecting many staff at this location, we have made the necessary decision to step away temporarily to ensure we can maintain a safe staffing level, without disrupting learning,” the spokesperson said.

Katrice Bryson, the mother of a seventh grader at the school, said she had received several notices from teachers with COVID in quick succession over the past week, and was not surprised the school had to close. his building temporarily.

Bryson said she had “no problem” with the school’s decision. “As an immunocompromised person, I am afraid of what this virus can do to me alone.”

Yet even a temporary return to remote learning felt like deja vu again more than two and a half years into the pandemic, she said.

The KIPP school closure comes as some children, parents and educators grapple with an increase in respiratory illnesses across the city, particularly among children.

The number of COVID-19 cases among students and staff reported at the city’s public and charter schools so far this month is up slightly from last month, according to Department of Health data. ‘education counted by the PRESS NYC groupalthough reported cases are still lower than in September and much lower than last year’s winter surge caused by the omicron variant.

Last week saw a total of 2,925 cases, compared to 884 in the same week last November, according to the PRESS NYC chart. At the height of last winter’s omicron surge, nearly 70,000 cases were tallied for a week in January.

But it’s not just COVID-19 that’s keeping kids and teachers out of class across the city.

City health officials recorded a increase in flu casesand hospitals reported more children filling pediatric beds diseases.

“This is the first winter since the pandemic began where you don’t just have to worry about COVID, but other respiratory viruses that produce similar illness,” said Jay Varma, director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic. Prevention and Response and former Health Advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Respiratory viruses have affected all age groups, but especially children, Varma said. The most likely explanation for the outbreak is that COVID-19 mitigation measures had the side effect of slowing the spread of influenza and RSV, keeping these viruses at bay for much of the pandemic, and to shut down the short-term immunity that accompanies exposure, he added. Now that these mitigation measures have been largely relaxed, respiratory illnesses are making a comeback.

This can cause major headaches for families and schools.

According to the figures of Bureau of Labor Statistics reported by the Washington Post.

So far, student and staff attendance across the city hasn’t budged much overall.

Pupil attendance hit around 88 per cent on Monday and Tuesday this week – similar to the annual average, and an education department spokesman said staff absences had remained stable since the start of the school year. ‘school year.

Several principals told Chalkbeat they’ve seen high student and staff absences in recent days, while others said they haven’t noticed big differences.

Thanksgiving vacation for the city’s public schools begins next Thursday.

Some educators and parents in the city are still cautiously heading into the winter months with memories of last year’s omicron push in their minds. This increase in cases has led student absenteeism records and disrupted school operations.

Varma said it’s still unclear which direction the three colliding viruses will take in the coming weeks and months, but said masking and ventilation are still the most effective tools for schools to help with. prevent the spread.

“If you can do them [high-quality masks] widely available, you can encourage people to use them without forcing them,” he said. “For me, it’s the middle ground.”

Michael Elsen-Rooney is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering New York’s public schools. Contact Michael at [email protected].



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