New York City Drops Random Testing for School Students, but Vaccination Still Mandatory for Teachers

New York City Drops Random Testing for School Students, but Vaccination Still Mandatory for Teachers
School buses are seen parked in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park in New York City on Oct. 6, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts
New York City schools will no longer require students to be randomly tested for COVID-19 when the new school year begins on Sept. 8, but face masks will be mandatory in some cases and teachers are still required to have the COVID-19 vaccine, according to new guidelines issued on Aug. 16.

Instead of random testing for students, schools will provide home test kits for students, parents, and teachers that can be used if they’re exposed to the virus.

A total of four tests per month will be provided, according to the guidance.

Students will also no longer be required to submit to a daily health screening to enter the building.

Masks are now “strongly recommended” indoors and will be available to those who need or want them at the school, but they are mandatory for students and staff who have been exposed to the virus and are returning to school on the sixth day after testing positive, and they must wear them through the 10th day after a positive test or the onset of symptoms.

Mandatory masks also apply to those who are showing symptoms of the virus at school and those who are entering a medical office, nurse’s office, or health center in a school.

Students and staff must stay home if they show any symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses and must be tested for COVID-19. Those who test positive for the virus must isolate for five days and can return to school on the sixth day, provided they have no symptoms or their symptoms are improving.

Schools will now also be required to report positive cases to “the situation room,” a group within the education department that tracks COVID-19 cases within schools and notifies school communities.

Many of the other COVID-19 protocols will remain in place.

Teachers Still Required to Get Jab

In late 2021, New York City schoolteachers who did not comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate were placed on unpaid leave by the city’s Department of Education. The vaccine mandate is yet to be lifted and many teachers have filed lawsuits against the city.

According to the updated guidance, vaccination is still required for all staff and visitors to enter school buildings. The requirement doesn’t apply to students unless they participate in “high-risk” competitive school sports.

Any other visitor that enters a building must show proof of at least one dose of vaccination, according to the guidance.

A City Hall spokesperson told City & State New York that the updated COVID-19 guidance for schools is in line with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that “schools are some of the safest places for children to be.”

“Our continued use of at-home tests will allow us to immediately inform all staff and students if they test positive and need to isolate, and will allow those at home to know whether to come in,” the City Hall spokesperson said. “New Yorkers have adapted in the way they are looking for test results and we are delivering the services they are asking for. We will continue to take all steps necessary to keep our children safe and healthy.”

According to data from the New York City Education Department, between Sept. 13, 2021, and Aug. 15, 2022, there have been a total of 254,270 positive COVID-19 cases within the schools, and 190,301 of those cases were among students.