New York City Mayor Eric Adams said on Thursday, Jan. 13, he is thinking about letting the country’s largest school district go back to some virtual instruction due to a decline in school attendance as the city fights a wave of new virus variants, AP reported.

Adams said that his goal is “I want children in school,” but added, “we do have to be honest that there’s a substantial number of children, for whatever reason, parents are not bringing them to school.”

The number of new COVID cases in New York City has gone down a little, making some officials think that the omicron tide is in decline, after a surge in cases had taken place at the beginning of the month.

According to city Department of Education, attendance to school shows an average of 76% district-wide. Over 100 schools said that less than 60% of their students came to class and more than 50 reported less than half of student’s attendance.

With nearly a million students in the school district, this figures reveal that about 220,000 are either sick or do not want to show up.

When pandemic hit and schools closed for the rest of the year, New York City’s school system was one of the first to get back to teaching in person. They implemented a hybrid plan in the fall of 2020: most students in school a few days a week, and at home—with online lessons—the rest of the time. This past fall, students returned 100% to school.

As soon as Adams took office, Michael Mulgrew, the head of the United Federation of Teachers union, asked the mayor to pospone in-person classes for a little while.

Adams has been working closely with Mulgrew, and he would be open to short-term remote learning as long as it was a “good option.”

The situation isn’t what happened in Chicago, where the third-largest school district in the country canceled five days of classes because it disagreed with the teachers’ union over COVID-19 safety rules.

Adams said that his city would not have a dispute like that. He said that New York is “not Chicago”, they can resolve it and get through these crises, find the right way to educate the children in a very safe environment.

While Adams talked about a remote option, he didn’t specify details of its implementation.

Since Adams—a Democrat—took office, he has taken an active stance to tackle pandemics. He recommends people take precautions and get vaccinated, but do not let COVID-19 rule their lives. He also said that the city couldn’t afford any more business or school closures.

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