"He who opens a school door, closes a prison" —Victor Hugo
Reopening High Schools is a Step in the Right Direction for Post-Pandemic Recovery
New York City — In two weeks from today, NYC will welcome students back into classrooms as if they were just returning from Spring Break. And it is this emphasis on "returning" to some sense of normalcy that tops the list of Mayor Bill de Blasio's and school officials' concerns.
De Blasio noted schools are not only an integral part of many NYC households but also impact the community at large. After all, few things remind us adults more of what Louis Armstrong overheard—"babies cry, I watch them grow; they'll learn much more than I'll ever know"—than to see fresh-faced high-schoolers toting backpacks down the sidewalks.
Indeed, such a sight for pandemic-sore eyes may not make us mumble "what a wonderful world" just yet, but it definitely marks a step in the right direction.
As for the new Schools Chancellor, Meisha Porter, set to take over for Richard Carranza on March 15th, she appears to have a far more practical view in mind. After all, NYC's public school system is so large it's roughly equivalent in number to the second and third largest school districts in the nation.
Porter's top priority calls for returning 55,000 high schoolers to the classroom on March 22nd. Teachers and staff will arrive a few days earlier.
De Blasio also announced the restart of high school sports for all students starting in April. As opposed to ending with the school year, like in times past, this year's sports season will run through the summer. Of course, it almost goes without saying: students will still be required to wear masks.
Only about half of the city's 488 high schools are set to offer full-time instruction for the majority of their in-person students.
Also, because the total population of high school students is 282,000, clearly 55,000 students returning to in-person classes suggests there's still work to be done. The other students prefer to receive instruction remotely, due primarily to concerns of health risks related to COVID.
Despite the need for having to iron out a few of the above wrinkles, as the saying goes—something is better than nothing. Again, the mere fact high-schoolers are being allowed to return to the very place said to offer "a foundation for a better future" suggests the city, as a whole, is in store for a better future, too.
In short, from the reopening of movie theaters last week to the reopening of high schools in weeks to come, all signs seem to indicate that—contrary to what pessimists claim—New York City is slowly returning to normal.