No Talking During Lunch, Daily Symptom Reporting: Inside NYC’s New In-Person School Year

Students in New York City’s public schools return to 100% in-person learning for the first time since schools became remote-only in March 2020. But as multiple parents and outlets report, in-person does not mean a return to normal, and may end up harming students just as much as remote learning did.

Karol Markowicz, a New York Post columnist with children in NYC’s public schools, reported the harsh restrictions kids face in the new school year.

“My daughter’s Manhattan middle school won’t be using lockers this year. My sons’ Brooklyn elementary school has let us know that water fountains will remain closed. No group projects, no field trips, no parties. Outdoor recess will be masked and distanced. Forget tag or sports,” Markowicz wrote.

She pointed to a health guide from New York’s Education Department, which suggested schools cancel sports, theater, clubs, and all music-related activities because children might breathe too much during them.

“Due to increased exhalation that occurs during physical activity, some sports can put players, coaches, trainers and others at ­increased risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. Close contact sports and indoor sports are particularly risky. Similar risks might exist for other extracurricular activities, such as band, choir, theater and school clubs that meet indoors,” the guide states.

In addition, schools will require students to eat lunch outside, where they will have to sit on the ground. Some schools have forbidden students from talking during lunch.

“One Manhattan elementary school sent parents a survey asking what they should do in case of inclement weather. One of the options was actually ‘skip lunch,’” Markowicz wrote.

On Twitter, Markowicz noted that students will have to fill out a health form each morning before school, which asks if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.

“Is a kid really handing in a form admitting they are having symptoms?” Markowicz asked. “How about we drop the form and instruct parents to keep home kids experiencing symptoms instead of noting it on some form?”

WABC reported that a city website where students and staff were to report their health status encountered a glitch Monday morning before school started, causing delays because parents and staff had to fill out the report by hand. Even then, everyone involved had to fill out the form by hand and submit to verbal questioning before entering school buildings.

The outlet also reported that vaccinated students who test positive for COVID-19 but show no symptoms will be allowed to continue coming school instead of quarantining. They will be encouraged to stay three feet away from everyone else, however.

Along with all the other restrictions, students and staff are required to wear face masks at all times, and teachers must get their first vaccine dose by September 27. Children over 12, who are able to get the shot, will not be required to do so.

While Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter acknowledged that students need to be back in school, the new restrictions may cause their own developmental harm, Markowicz wrote.

“We used to understand that it is important for kids to get exercise with friends. But we have forgotten everything we have ever known about child development in the name of fighting a virus that poses a minuscule risk to children,” she wrote.

Further, requiring kids to wear masks when President Joe Biden’s own COVID-19 adviser Michael Osterholm acknowledged “the face cloth coverings that people wear are not very effective in reducing any of the virus movement in or out,” is especially unnecessary, particularly since kids are at a low risk of contracting and spreading the virus in the first place.

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