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New York City weighs remote learning option amid omicron spread

Mayor Eric Adams said he is open to a temporary remote learning plan, but ultimately wants "children in school."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday he is considering the possibility of a return to temporary remote learning for students amid the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Speaking at a news conference, Adams said he was working with leadership at United Federation of Teachers, the union representing most of the city’s public school teachers, to determine the best path forward.

“I am working closely with the president of the UFT," he said. "And we will find the right way to educate our children in a very safe environment and if we’re able to put in place a temporarily remote option, we’re welcome to do so."

Adams stressed, however, that while he was open to remote learning, his hope was to keep children in schools.

“I want children in school because it’s not only the academics. You hear me say it all the time. It is the holistic approach the full development of the personhood of the children. All the experts state they should be in school,” he said.

Image: High School students stage walkout to urge officials to offer remote learning options due to COVID-19 saftey concerns in New York
Students leave the Fiorello H. La Guardia High School in New York City on Jan. 11, 2022. New York City could see a return to remote learning amid the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.Mike Segar / Reuters

Still, Adams' comments appeared to represent a shift in his stance just days ago when he said he suggested that the current model of remote learning was not an option.

“The last time we did a remote option, children were not learning and you can’t have a false remote option," he said last Friday in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Adams said he planned to "build out one of the best remote learning processes in our country," but he said he needed "time to do so." Until then, he said: "We can't continue to hurt the education of our children."

"We need children in school and that is what I'm going to do as long as I know I can do it in a healthy way and we believe we can do that and we proved that," he said.

Image: Governor Hochul Makes Announcement With Mayor Adams In New York City
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has said he is considering the possibility of a return to temporary remote learning.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

On Monday, attendance at schools was only at 75 percent, however, according to NBC New York. And the issue was further amplified on Tuesday after students held walkouts at several schools, including The Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech to demand more Covid-19 testing for students and staff, as well as the option of remote learning.

The demonstration took place after New York City's in-school testing program was expanded starting Jan. 3 to double the number of students tested at each school.

According to data published by the New York City Department of Education on Wednesday, there were just over 5,400 positive Covid cases reported within a 24-hour period among students, with 787 cases reported among staff. Meanwhile, in the three months between Sept. 13 and Jan. 13, a total of 104,764 cases were reported among students, with 33,731 cases reported among staff. There are more than 1 million students enrolled in the city's school system, the largest school district in the U.S., according to the department's website.

The data only represents a snapshot of the situation, however, with not all schools reporting data.

The possible return to remote learning comes as New York City contends with a surge in cases fueled by the spread of the omicron variant.

Daily transmission levels have been on the decline in recent days, according to data published by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, but are still relatively high with the seven-week average for daily cases at 24,800 per day compared to the daily average for the last 28 days of 25,954 per day.

Adams' office and the United Federation of Teachers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.