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New York City closes all schools amid spike in coronavirus cases

The largest public school system in the US will halt in-person learning on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed.

The city had said since summer that school buildings would close if 3 per cent of all the Covid tests performed citywide over a seven-day period came back positive.

As the rate neared that point last week, Mr de Blasio advised parents to prepare for a possible shutdown within days.

The mayor said the rate has now passed that mark and the city’s more than one million public school students will now be taught entirely online.

As of the end of October, only about 25 per cent of students had gone to class in school this autumn, far fewer than officials had expected.

In-person school resumed on September 21 for pre-primary and some special education students.

Primary schools opened on September 29 and high schools on October 1.

At the time, the seven-day positive test average rate was under 2 per cent.

Even as the school system stayed open, more than 1,000 classrooms went through temporary closures.

This came as students or staffers tested positive, and officials began instituting local shutdowns in neighbourhoods where coronavirus cases were rising rapidly.

New York City’s school system, like others across the nation, halted in-person learning in mid-March as the virus spiked.

While many big US school districts later decided to start the autumn term with online learning, Mr de Blasio pushed for opening school doors.

The Democrat argued that students needed services they got in school and that many parents were counting on it in order to get back to work.

To keep students spread out, the city offered in-person learning only part-time, with youngsters logging on from home the rest of the time.

The reopening date, originally set for September 10, was postponed twice as teachers, principals and some parents said safety precautions and staffing were inadequate.

The teachers’ union at one point threatened to strike.

The city agreed to changes, including hiring thousands more teachers and testing 10 per cent to 20 per cent of all students and staffers per month for the virus.

When high schools finally opened their doors, Mr de Blasio hailed it as “an absolutely amazing moment” in the city’s recovery.

“This is an example of what makes New York City great,” he said at the time.

“We did something that other cities around this country could only dream of because we have fought back this pandemic so well for so long.”