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Middle Schools Reopening: New York City Takes Another Step Toward Fully Reopening

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

After months of attending class virtually, tens of thousands of middle school students in New York City will be allowed back in classrooms at the end of the month.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that about 62,000 middle school students who opted for in-person learning last year will be able to return to school buildings for at least part of the week starting Feb. 25. It’s still uncertain when high schools will reopen.

“I know our children are ready, our parents are ready for kids to be back in school,”

Mr. de Blasio said during a news conference on Monday.

Separately on Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that restaurants in New York City could begin serving customers indoors on Friday, for the first time since December.

Restaurants were originally slated to resume indoor dining on Sunday, which happens to be Valentine’s Day.

[Even with the restart of middle schools, most students will still be learning from home.]

The context

In the fall, Mr. de Blasio vowed to close schools when the city hit a seven-day average positive test rate of 3 percent. Schools were fully open for only six weeks before the mayor announced a shutdown in late November.

Less than three weeks later, elementary school students and children with advanced disabilities were allowed to return, but plans for middle and high school students were left unclear.

The vast majority of city students — roughly 70 percent — had already decided to stick with remote learning through the rest of the school year.

The precedent

When some schools reopened in December, more stringent health precautions were added. Those measures — including random weekly testing and requiring buildings to close temporarily if at least two unrelated positive cases were detected — have frustrated parents and led to frequent closures.

As of Sunday evening, 144 of roughly 1,000 open school buildings were under 10-day closure orders, while another 46 buildings were shuttered for at least 24 hours. The average positivity rate in schools was 0.54 percent as of last week, my colleague Eliza Shapiro reported. The city’s average positivity rate is now hovering around 8 percent.

The prospect

On Monday, Richard A. Carranza, the city’s school chancellor, said that about half of the 471 middle schools reopening will be able to offer in-person learning five days a week, and that other schools are preparing to do the same in the coming months.

Mr. de Blasio said that it is his goal to reopen high schools this spring.

“High schools are a complex situation,”

he said.

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