The Outlook for Public Schools in N.Y.C.

Weather: Mostly cloudy with a high in the low 60s. There’s a slight chance of showers this afternoon and through the evening. Tonight will be partly cloudy and in the low 50s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until April 29 (Holy Thursday, Orthodox).

Temporary shutdowns may soon be less common in New York City public schools.

Until now, school buildings have closed for 10 days when two unrelated coronavirus cases were detected, regardless of the source of infection.

But on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new policy: Starting next week, schools can remain open unless there are four or more confirmed cases in separate classrooms within a seven-day period. The city’s contact-tracing program must also determine that the infections originated inside a school before that school closes for 10 days.

I asked my colleague Eliza Shapiro, who covers education in New York City, about the change — and the overall outlook for public schools. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Q: How was the previous school-closings rule affecting parents and educators?

A: The previous rule applied to school buildings themselves. So you could have had a middle school with two cases on one floor and an elementary school with zero cases on the floor below — and both schools would have to close.

In the last month or so, there was just this drumbeat of frustration and anger from families who felt like the rule was incredibly disruptive for them. And a lot of educators didn’t like it either, in terms of switching at the drop of a hat between remote and in-person.

Now, they’re focusing on individual schools, rather than buildings. [Read more about the other changes.]

Q: The deadline for families to opt for in-person classes instead of remote learning is today. What might the rest of this school year hold?

We don’t know how many families will ultimately opt in. But based off what the mayor has said, we can expect it to be tens of thousands.

It’ll mean something different at every school: In some, many more students would be able to come back five days a week. But in others, those numbers would be lower since there’s less overall space.

Shifting social-distancing guidance could also affect the outlook for some grade levels.

Q: And what about the fall?

The mayor has tried to put his stake in the ground, saying we’re going to have as close to a normal school year as possible starting this September. And if vaccinations continue and virus variants don’t change the game, it’s highly likely.

Q: What other obstacles to a full reopening exist?

One big question will be what safety protocols look like. Most kids will not be vaccinated, and we’ll have to consider what virus testing, physical distancing and socialization now mean.

There are also still many families who have real concerns about sending their children back, even in the fall, which the city will have to address.

Hundreds of people are still without a home days after a fire erupted at their apartment complex in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. [CBS New York]

The Times’s Melissa Guerrero writes:

Although many performance spaces, museums and community centers are closed, people are finding creative ways to connect through virtual events and programs. Here are suggestions for maintaining a New York social life this weekend while keeping a safe distance from other people.

Visit West Harlem Arts’ new exhibit “Resilience,” which commemorates the work and resiliency of visual artists in West Harlem, and in nearby neighborhoods, during the pandemic.

Explore the exhibit on the website.

Watch a screening of short films about mental health, made by young filmmakers, on Friday at 6 p.m. Attendees can attend the post-screening Q. and A.

R.S.V.P. is free on the event page.

On Sunday at 10 a.m., in honor of Earth Day later this month, learn how to craft plantable recycled seed paper with wildflower seeds.

Register on the event page.

It’s Friday — enjoy the weekend!

Dear Diary:

It was two days after my 28th birthday and the middle of a blizzard in February 2017. I went to a meeting and afterward, with the rest of the day halted because of the weather, I stopped at Veselka to drink coffee and eat at the counter.

I struck up a conversation with a young man who was sitting to my left. He said he was about to embark on a nine-hour bike messenger shift.

He had a thin mustache and tangly, Kurt Cobain-style blond hair and was dressed all in black . Underdressed, really, with just a leather motorcycle jacket as his only defense against the ceaseless snow. He ordered challah French toast, eggs over easy and kielbasa.

“My family keeps sending me pictures from home, in Florida,” he said.

“But do you want to be in Florida?” I asked.

“Hell, no,” he replied.

A woman came in and sat down to my right. She ordered borscht and told me that she had been coming there for 30 years. The slice of bread that came with the soup used to be twice as thick, she said.

We talked about politics and mindfulness and being strangely attracted to men while ovulating. She told me that B&H Dairy had vegetarian liver on the menu in 1974.

She said she had an older dog that woke her up too early sometimes. She said she was striving to live in the moment. One day the dog would be gone, she said, and she would curse the days she now took for granted.

She thought the bike messenger and I were related.

“Is that your bro?” she asked, smiling. “Your little bro?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “We’re all just here by chance.”

— Marilyn Haines

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How schools and universities are luring students back to campus with bold new spaces

There’s a revolution brewing behind the scenes at the nation’s schools and universities.

It’s not so much about overthrowing the existing political order, however. It’s much more about the real estate – a dramatic change in style from institutional to commercial, where places of learning increasingly mirror modern workspaces.

“We’re seeing the largest qualitative shift we’ve ever seen before in the educational space,” said architect Hamilton Wilson, managing director of specialist firm Wilson Architects. “All the spaces in both universities and schools are rapidly changing.

“It’s all about better learning, individually and collectively, and about joining the dots and creating cross-disciplinary spaces that enable the next generation to find extraordinary new things that haven’t been invented yet.”

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Educational institutions have been physically changing for the past few years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the thinking about the need for improvements.

With overseas students providing much-needed funds for universities and other tertiary colleges, there’s now heated competition to woo them back once the international borders re-open. Since domestic students have become increasingly used to remote learning, they need to be lured back too by much more attractive physical spaces.

At the independent Ravenswood School for Girls on Sydney’s upper north shore, architectural firm BVN delivered a senior learning centre for year 12 pupils, which opened in May last year to coincide with students’ return to school after weeks of studying online.

The Ravenswood School for Girls senior learning centre opened when students returned to school in May last year. Photo: Tom Ferguson

It was designed to be flexible enough to accommodate traditional stand-and-deliver models and recent – and future – styles of teaching. It also had to provide a “home” for the senior students, where they could feel a personal connection to their school, have coffee and chat with their peers and study after hours.

“Teaching styles used to be generic from school to school, with long corridors and eight-metre by eight-metre classrooms off them, and they’d all be the same,” BVN principal Philip Rossington said. “But now schools are looking at how they want to deliver their teaching, and wanting their buildings to reflect their own particular philosophies.”

There’s a variety of seating for students, smaller “huts” to give them a sense of enclosure and casual tiered learning spaces in a project that’s now been shortlisted for an Australian Institute of Architects (NSW) award. It has a good precedent too. In 2012, BVN won the Sir John Sulman Medal for public architecture for an earlier building at Ravenswood.

Another much-praised project has been Melbourne’s Monash University Building CL28, the Centrally Managed Teaching and Maths Learning Centre, by architects Kennedy Nolan. Originally a windowless computer facility in an old 1960s building, it’s now been transformed into a variety of formal and flexible informal teaching spaces, student lounges and pods, which students can use as suits them – whether they’re quiet introverts or sociable extroverts.

This area at Monash University was transformed from a windowless computer lab to a variety of teaching and studying spaces. Photo: Derek Swalwell

Besides completely overhauling the amenity of the 1000 square metre building, there are also several fun, playful elements. These include graph-paper gridlines on internal glazing and whiteboards on which students can write out their equations, glazed facades with geometry and maths symbols, an entry portal, which is an abstract of the pi symbol, and maths patterns on the carpet.

“Our task was to create an exciting place for people to come and learn, gather and teach, with views to the large nature garden and established trees outside, and from the outside in,” said Kennedy Nolan director Rachel Nolan.

“I think now universities are very clearly thinking about the users and how to keep them on the campus longer. You need a great campus because students often have to travel a long way to get there, so you need to make it much more attractive for students and the teachers.”

The firm also worked on a school in Melbourne’s north-east, the Research Primary School, a place of dilapidated facilities on a steeply sloping site. A visible and welcoming entrance to the school was established, external areas were clearly defined, and a contained playing and learning space was built, with direct access to teaching spaces and a central quadrangle with a broad verandah to give the school a heart.

“Architecture in education can be very rewarding as lots of people are being exposed to good design and are benefitting from it,” Ms Nolan said. “And it’s a great part of a child’s education to be exposed to good design in buildings and interiors.”

As education specialists, Wilson Architects see schools and colleges as having to react to the changing work landscape and update their facilities to better equip their students with the skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world, particularly post COVID-19.

It designed the $30 million JCU Ideas Lab, a centre of innovation at James Cook University’s Nguma-bada campus in Cairns, in Far North Queensland, jointly funded by the university, the Queensland government and the federal government. It opened in July 2020.

The $30 million Ideas Lab at James Cook University’s Nguma-bada campus in Cairns. Photo: Andrew Watson

“Educational institutions are becoming more responsive to an economic climate where jobs are no longer as prescriptive as they used to be,” Mr Wilson said. “We were brought up in a period where everything was tailored to training you for at least being knowledgeable in one area, and you go out into the world, and that’s it.

“But now students need to be masters of many things and navigate the world, and education has been looking at broader ways to provide those skillsets. It’s moved away from content being king to being about how to navigate people and places and technology. It’s so much more complex and nuanced.”

The JCU Ideas Lab is an interconnected three-storey edifice with natural light, flexible, reconfigurable floor plates, retreat spaces, demonstrative spaces and open spaces that all visually connect to an internal and exterior landscape – much like some of the best new workspaces today.

The facade looks like origami, a metaphor for innovation, while the whole of the building is wrapped in a “folded” Teflon fabric, which takes on creases and hard chines that modulate mass and form. Large format projectors cast images onto the screen at night to further animate the facade.

“Of course, all the technology allows us now to work remotely, but we still need to connect physically,” Mr Wilson said. “COVID allowed us to change our processes to learn and teach and work online, but humans still need fundamentally to come together and connect, and some of these new buildings are really inviting for that. “

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Schools closed, masks mandatory — here’s what you need to know about Brisbane’s lockdown restrictions

Six of the cases were acquired overseas and are in hotel quarantine but, worryingly, there are four new community cases of the highly infectious UK strain of the virus.

It takes the total number of cases in the latest cluster to seven.

Masks are mandatory.

The lockdown measures start at 5:00pm on Monday.

At this stage they will continue until 5:00pm on Thursday, just before the start of the Easter long weekend.

But it could be extended.

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Brisbane’s COVID-19 lockdown closes schools from tomorrow as part of three-day restrictions

Schools across Brisbane and its surrounds will shut from tomorrow as the city enters a three-day lockdown due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

At a press conference this morning, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said schools and day care centres would remain open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are essential workers.

The changes come in the last week of term, just days before children were due to begin their Easter break, and schools are providing information to parents as it comes to hand.

From tomorrow, all schools in the Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Moreton Bay and Redlands local government areas will close to most students.

Children already at school today can remain there, as the lockdown of greater Brisbane begins at 5:00pm today.

Schools were meant to end the term on Thursday ahead of the Easter break, to resume on April 19.


As has been the case in previous lockdowns, schools will remain open for children of essential workers and for vulnerable children.

“[It will be] the same as what we’ve always done with previous lockdowns, so they will remain open of course because essential workers still need to go to work,” Dr Young said.


As was the case during January’s snap lockdown of Brisbane, Dr Young said childcare centres would remain open for parents who were unable to look after their children during the day.

The Queensland Department of Education has promised more information later today and state Education Minister Grace Grace said schools would be in touch with families before the end of the day.

According to the Department’s website, you should expect information directly from your school or childcare centre “about the duration of the closure and arrangement to ensure students continue learning”.

The website also contains support information for parents keeping their children at home.

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Full list of schools and roads closed as disastrous flood waters rise

Schools in flood-affected parts of the state have begun to reopen following days of closures, however more than 60 schools remain shut due to the disaster.

The latest information from the Department of Education lists 65 public and non-government schools currently shut for the fifth day in a row.

More than 23,000 people state-wide have been evacuated with thousands more still on alert.

A woman walks down a flooded Kurrajong Road as water levels begin to subside on March 25, 2021 in Richmond, Australia. s) (Getty)

Officials from the Department of Education said more than 50 other schools have been damaged so far, the majority sustaining damage from flooding and roof leaks, strong winds, fallen trees and debris. Repairs and clean-up has started where possible, to ensure that schools can be returned to normal operations as soon as possible.

“We are continuing to work closely with emergency services to ensure our school communities remain safe and fully informed about any disruption to schooling,” the NSW Education spokesperson said.

“Before leaving home, parents and carers should consider their local situation including any existing road closures, transport disruptions and forecast weather conditions. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it may take some time before people are able to return to their homes and schools with the full extent of the damage yet to be determined.

“Life won’t be normal for a people of people for a long time and we have to face that,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We have to accept we’re still going through the crisis itself … I’m not going to pretend the clean-up will be easy.”

Road into North Richmond underwater leaving residents stranded. (9News)

Students affected by the flood emergency will be able to learn from home, the department said.

Before and after school care services will not be available for schools that are closed.

Parents and carers should consider their location situation before leaving home, including any existing road closures, transport disruptions and forecast weather conditions.

  • Aldavilla Public School
  • Beechwood Public School
  • Bellbrook Public School
  • Boggabilla Central School
  • Brewongle Environmental Education Centre
  • Bullarah Public School
  • Cattai Public School
  • Colo High School
  • Comboyne Public School
  • Coopernook Public School
  • Cowper Public School
  • Crescent Head Public School
  • Elands Public School
  • Eungai Public School
  • Frederickton Public School
  • Gladstone Public School
  • Glossodia Public School
  • Green Hill Public School
  • Harwood Island Public School
  • Hawkesbury High School
  • Hopetown School
  • Huntingdon Public School
  • Kempsey East Public School
  • Kempsey High School
  • Kempsey South Public School
  • Kempsey West Public School
  • Kinchela Public School
  • Leeville Public School
  • Long Flat Public School
  • Longneck Lagoon Environmental Ed Centre
  • Macdonald Valley Public School
  • Mallawa Public School
  • Megalong Public School
  • Melville High School
  • Moree East Public School
  • Moree Public School
  • Moree Secondary College Albert St
  • Moree Secondary College Carol Ave
  • Orama Public School
  • Palmers Island Public School
  • Penrith Lakes Environmental Ed Centre
  • Pitt Town Public School
  • Rollands Plains Upper Public School
  • Rowena Public School
  • Smithtown Public School
  • South West Rocks Public School
  • Telegraph Point Public School
  • Toomelah Public School
  • Tucabia Public School
  • Wauchope High School
  • Wauchope Public School
  • Willawarrin Public School
  • Wisemans Ferry Public School
SES rescue Windsor residents as their homes become isolated and inundated as the Hawkesbury River floods across the region. (Nick Moir)

Independent and Catholic schools closed

  • Bede Polding College South Windsor
  • Chisholm Primary Bligh Park
  • Hunter Trade College
  • Kempsey Adventist School
  • Kuyper Christian School
  • McAuley Catholic College, Grafton
  • Moree Christian School
  • St Matthew’s Primary Windsor
  • St Monica’s Primary Richmond
  • St Paul’s College, Kempsey
  • St Philomena’s Central School, Moree
  • St Joseph’s Primary School, Kempsey
Flooding above South Creek bordering Windsor Downs. (Benjamin Johnson)
An aerial view of flooded farmland on the Colo river. (Jenny Evans/Getty)

Motorists and public transport passengers in flood affected areas of the state are advised to avoid non-essential travel and work from home again today.

Motorists needing to travel should take extreme care, be prepared for conditions to change quickly and never drive through floodwaters.

Public transport passengers who need to travel are also advised to allow plenty of extra travel time and take extreme care.

  • Between Narrabri and the Queensland border – the Newell Highway is closed
  • Between Moree and the Queensland border – the Carnarvon Highway is closed
  • The Gwydir Highway is closed east of Moree at Biniguy, and about 30km west of Moree near Mallawa Road
  • In Myrtle Creek – Summerland Way is closed at Elliotts Road
  • Between Glenthorne and Taree – Manning River Drive is closed over the Martin Bridge
  • Between Walcha and Gloucester – Thunderbolts Way has reopened
  • At Failford – Failford Road is closed between Bullocky Way and The Lakes Way
  • Walcha to Yarras – the Oxley Highway is closed in both directions
  • Between South Grafton and Townsend – Big River Way is closed
  • At Macksville – Giinagay Way is closed between Wedgewood Drive and Upper Warrell Creek Road
  • Between Thora and Dorrigo Mountain – Waterfall Way is closed
A man stands on the main Windsor Road whilst taking photos in the suburb of McGraths Hill on March 23, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (David Gray)
  • In Albion Park Rail – the Illawarra Highway is closed between Tongarra Road and Croome Lane
  • At Bombala – Cathcart Road is closed across the Coolumbooka Bridge
  • Between Bemboka and Steeple Flat – the Snowy Mountains Highway has reopened
  • On the South Coast Line – buses are replacing trains between Wollongong and Dapto due to signal equipment repairs at Unanderra.
  • Between Ivanhoe and Wilcannia – The Cobb Highway is closed

In the state’s north west:

  • In Walgett – the Kamilaroi Highway is closed between the Castlereagh Highway and Cryon Road
  • Between Ivanhoe and Wilcannia – The Cobb Highway is closed
  • The Silver City Highway has reopened for Four-wheel-drives only between Packsaddle and Tibooburra, but is now closed to all vehicles between Tibooburra and the Queensland border

In the Hunter/Central Coast:

  • Between Cliftleigh and Gillieston Heights – Main Road/Cessnock Road is closed between Avery Lane and Russell Street
  • Between Nelson Bay and Anna Bay – Nelson Bay Road is closed between Salamander Way and Frost Road
  • On the Central Coast & Newcastle Line – buses are replacing trains between Newcastle Interchange and Fassifern due to flooding at Cockle Creek.
  • On the Hunter Line – buses are replacing trains between Newcastle Interchange, Maitland and Dungog/Scone due to flooding
Floodwaters reach the rooftops of buildings in Richmond. (9News)

In the State’s Central West and Riverina:

  • Between Wallendbeen and Temora – Burley Griffin Way is closed
  • Between Temora and West Wyalong – Goldfields Way is closed
  • Between Cowra and Young – the Olympic Highway has reopened

In Sydney’s North West and West:

  • Between Bell and Mount Tomah – Bells Line of Road is closed in both directions
  • At Windsor:
    • Windsor Bridge is closed between Macquarie Street and Wilberforce Road
    • Windsor Road is closed between Pitt Town Road and Court Street
    • Macquarie Street is closed between Brabyn Street and Bell Street
  • At North Richmond – North Richmond Bridge is closed
  • At Yarramundi – Yarramundi Bridge is closed
  • At Colo – Colo River Bridge is open to vehicles up to 15 tonnes
  • Hawkesbury Valley Way has reopened between Macquarie Street and Day Street in Windsor but is still closed between Moses Street and just west of Percival Street in Clarendon
  • At Pitt Town – Pitt Town Road is closed between Saunders Road and Glebe Road
  • At Riverstone – Garfield Road West is closed between West Parade and Carnarvon Road
  • At Wilberforce – Wilberforce Road is closed between Freemans Reach Road and Rose Street
  • Between Cattai and South Maroota – Wisemans Ferry Road is closed across the Cattai Creek Bridge between Mitchell Park Road and Sackville Ferry Road
  • At Glenorie – Cattai Ridge Road is closed in both directions at The Causeway
  • At Wallacia – Mulgoa Road is closed between Water Street and Roscrea Drive and Silverdale Road is closed across the Nepean River
  • At East Kurrajong – Putty Road is closed between East Kurrajong Road and Stannix Park Road
  • Selected Busways services in Penrith, Blacktown and surrounding areas are running
    • Busways services in the Hawkesbury are still not running
  • On the T1 Western Line and T5 Cumberland Line – buses are replacing trains between Schofields and Richmond due to flooding
    • The buses cannot access Vineyard, Mulgrave, Clarendon and East Richmond stations due to road closures caused by flooding.
  • Buses are replacing F3 ferries between Meadowbank, Rydalmere and Parramatta due to the Parramatta Weir overflowing at Parramatta and strong currents at Rydalmere

Motorists are advised to avoid any non-essential travel. Anyone who needs to travel, should exercise extreme caution, allow plenty of extra travel time and never drive through flood waters.

  • Between North Narrabeen and Oxford Falls – Wakehurst Parkway is closed
  • At Oxford Falls – Oxford Falls Road is closed between Wakehurst Parkway and Aroona Road
  • Audley Weir is closed in the Royal National Park
  • At Menangle Park – Menangle Road is closed over the Nepean River
  • At Douglas Park – Douglas Park Drive (causeway) is closed between Moreton Park Road and Mitchell Place

This article will be updated throughout the day.

There are also a number of other minor road closures. For a full list and the latest traffic information, visit, download the Live Traffic NSW app or call 132 701.

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Schools close as ‘rain bomb’ floods roads, houses evacuated over landslip risk

The Premier warned the soaking rain increased the risk of flash flooding and said “if you do not have to be on the roads, please stay off them”.

“I am advised that supplies to our dams have increased to 59.8 per cent. It is particularly pleasing to see water flowing into Stanthorpe’s Storm King dam.

“I am advised at this stage forecasts are unlikely to require releases from Wivenhoe, Somerset or North Pine dams.”

Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan said the next 24 hours would continue to pose a challenge, with landslips possible.

“Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and the SES assisted with the rescue of 23 people at Wongawallan [Gold Coast hinterland] as result of a landslide,” he said.

“While flood levels are expected to remain below the peaks seen following Tropical Cyclone Debbie, I urge people to be prepared and remain vigilant.”

He said four swiftwater rescues had been performed since Sunday morning in the Brisbane and Gold Coast areas, conducted by Fire and Rescue Service swiftwater rescue technicians.

Mr Ryan said the heavy rain was expected to move out to sea on Wednesday.

24-hour rain totals to 9am

  • 196mm at North Stradbroke Island
  • 193 mm at North Tamborine
  • 169mm at Upper Springbrook 
  • 123mm south of Pelican waters and
  • 69 mm at Goondiwindi Airport

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3 feet of separation is enough in schools, CDC says, as long as masks are worn

WASHINGTON — In a significant revision of its school reopening guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that students can be spaced 3 feet apart in classrooms.

“Physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students can safely be adopted in classroom settings where mask use is universal and other prevention measures are taken,” the CDC said in a statement.

The previous guidance, of 6 feet between desks, was widely seen as hampering school reopenings because many schools simply did not have the space or staff to make that accommodation and still have all students learning in person at the same time.

Mask use is critical to the new guidance. That guidance is clearest for elementary school students, who the CDC says can be seated in classrooms at a distance of 3 feet from each other “regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high.”

Middle and high school students can also sit 3 feet apart, though not in all cases. “Middle school students and high school students should be at least 6 feet apart in communities where transmission is high, if cohorting is not possible,” the CDC said. (Cohorting is the practice of keeping people in groups that do not commingle.)

Socially distanced and with protective partitions students work on an art project during class at the Sinaloa Middle School in Novato, Calif. on March 2, 2021. (Haven Daley/AP)

Socially distanced and with protective partitions, students work on an art project at Sinaloa Middle School in Novato, Calif., on March 2. (Haven Daley/AP)

President Biden has made reopening schools a priority. The new coronavirus relief bill includes $122 billion for schools. He has also instructed states to vaccinate teachers by the end of March. Teachers had not been prioritized for vaccination in some states.

Proponents of reopening schools say the new guidelines are a significant, and auspicious, development. “This evidence-based change in guidelines will make it possible for more schools to open to all students,” said Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University who has written frequently on the issue. “They are a great step towards being able to bring all students back safely to in-person learning.”

Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner and current George Washington University professor of health policy, had previously cautioned against reopening schools too quickly, especially in communities where the virus was still spreading rapidly. But she also commended the CDC’s revision.

“The goal needs to be to get children back in school, full time,” Wen told Yahoo News. “Unless 6-foot distancing is removed as a requirement, this won’t be possible for many schools. That’s why the focus needs to shift to what other things must be in place to replace the distancing,” such as mandatory testing and ventilation upgrades, as well as teacher vaccinations.

“If full, in-person schooling is essential, we need to figure out how to do this with other measures,” Wen said.

A girl attends school from a booth as students return to school as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 8, 2021. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)

A girl in Philadelphia attends school from a booth on March 8. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)

The Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this week that it was providing $10 billion to help schools conduct more comprehensive testing. That should help school districts spot emerging outbreaks and implement quarantines without instituting more sweeping shutdowns.

To bolster its case, the CDC released three studies on Friday that show low transmission within public schools. Teachers’ unions had asked for increased evidence on the purported safety of returning to in-person instruction. Some union leaders discounted earlier studies because they seemed to focus on rural districts.

The new research appears to be unambiguous in showing that schooling is safe as long as masks are worn and other mitigation measures followed. While that won’t ease all concerns among hesitant teachers and parents, it could bolster the case for returning to the classroom.

One of the studies published on Friday showed “much lower” transmission within 22 schools in Missouri than in the surrounding communities. The study was conducted in December, when the coronavirus was proliferating rapidly around the country. Mask mandates were in place at the time for schools in both St. Louis County and Springfield, where the study was conducted.

A second study looked at schooling in Florida, which has few pandemic restrictions in place. Students there returned to in-person instruction in August. Even so, that reopening has proved successful. “Fewer than 1% of registered students were identified as having school-related COVID-19” between August and December, the CDC said.

Juliana Orosi, center, checks in students Thomas, left, and Ethan Guillen on the first day of Broward County, Florida schools phased reopening for face-to-face eLearning at Fox Trail Elementary School, on Oct. 9, 2020, in Davie, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Juliana Orosi checks in students Thomas, left, and Ethan Guillen on the first day of phased school reopening in Davie, Fla., on Oct. 9. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

When the virus did enter schools, it tended to be in “districts without mask requirements.” Much like his political benefactor, Donald Trump, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis has generally downplayed and even maligned mask wearing as a public health measure. Many other governors have treated masks as a small but necessary concession to reopening schools and other segments of society.

The final study, which focused on the Salt Lake City area in December and January, found “no school-related outbreaks” in 20 elementary schools, with few cases to begin with. The Utah study noted that in some places, students were spaced less than 6 feet apart. “High student mask use” appeared to suffice.

Advocates saw Friday’s announcement as a major step toward reopening many schools this spring, with an eye to a nationwide reopening in the fall. The new guidance could have the greatest impact in districts where students are attending school in hybrid arrangements, going in on some days and staying home on others. More students could now presumably attend school on the same day, since they can sit closer together.

“We hope that many districts shift from the flawed hybrid model to five-day school this spring, and certainly all districts should be planning for that in the fall,” pro-reopening activist and educator Karen Vaites told Yahoo News. Vaites, who has a daughter in elementary school, points out that 3 feet of spacing “has essentially been the norm in Europe all year.”


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Review into sex education in Queensland schools welcomed by teachers and advocates

Education Minister Grace Grace yesterday instructed the Director-General to work across non-government and state education systems, as well as P&Cs and school communities, to examine the issue.

The measures will include looking into the Respectful Relationships Education Program (RREP) to “ensure it adequately addresses sexual consent and reporting and seeks the views of young people through the Minister’s Student Advisory Council”.

Ms Grace said Australia’s health and physical education curriculum would also be assessed to see if it was “addressing the needs of students in relation to these issues”.

The announcement was prompted by the recent sexual assault scandal in Federal Parliament and after disturbing claims from young Queensland students surfaced via a national petition started by former Kambala student Chanel Contos.

The petition included allegations of sexual assault and rape occurring among students at some of the state’s largest public and private schools.

The Principal of Brisbane’s elite Catholic all-girls school All Hallows’, Catherine O’Kane, said students were taking notice that change was imminent.

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School’s out – Will Roblox’s thriving virtual economy make it the next meme stock? | Business

Investors rush to get a slice of a firm whose games children love

ONE PORTENT of a meme stock being born is when the company gets a pseudo-ticker on WallStreetBets, an online forum on Reddit. Roblox, an American video-game platform, has earned the tag $SEARS. Redditors aren’t mixing it up with a stodgy old department store. Roblox’s digital currency, Robux, sounds like Roebuck, of Sears Roebuck fame. Get it?

Roblox ticks other meme-stock boxes, too. The kids are into it, just as they were into GameStop, an ailing bricks-and-mortar gaming retailer whose share price soared earlier this year. Unlike GameStop, though, Roblox is all the rage with venture capitalists, Wall Street bankers and other supposedly hard-headed investors. The firm’s private valuation soared from $4bn at the start of last year to $29.5bn in January, when it raised $520m. It is so flush with cash that it has decided to go public via a direct listing, without drumming up fresh capital. As its shares debut on the New York Stock Exchange on March 10th its market value could rise further.

Roblox provides sophisticated software tools to young, amateur developers. Those creators—Roblox has 8m of them—produce multiplayer games for other youngsters. The company makes money by issuing Robux, which players buy with real dollars and spend on extras such as avatar outfits and accessories. It keeps some of the revenue but forks as much as 70% over to the developers in the hope of incentivising more and better content.

This, it hopes, will attract more players in need of more Robux. In 2020 Roblox’s developer community collectively earned $329m; 300 individuals brought in $100,000 or more. The approach has fostered loyalty among developers. Creators like Alex Balfanz, a student who made millions and paid his college fees with “Jailbreak”, a hit game, plans to create for Roblox for a decade or more.

Use of Roblox soared after covid-19 cancelled school and real-world playdates everywhere. The site now boasts 20m gaming “experiences” that draw 37m daily active users globally. Three in four American children aged 9-12 are on the platform, as is one in two British ten-year-olds. In Roblox’s last fiscal year users bought and spent $1.9bn worth of the currency.

Once the school gates open, as Roblox has warned, its rate of growth is likely to slow. By how much is anyone’s bet. Not that this will bother investors. Professionals like its growth story. Day-traders may like the meme-ness. Neither is much bothered about the company’s net losses, which swelled to $195m in the nine months to September 2020 as it invests in expansion. As a result, Bernstein, a broker, reckons that Roblox shares could fetch anywhere between $30 and $120 apiece when they start trading.

Long-term success will depend on attracting an older audience. Roblox has already penetrated the 8-15 age range. “Ageing up” is a priority for Roblox’s co-founder and boss, David Baszucki. So is lifting the quality of games. Roblox’s exciting game play has pulled in a massive audience but even ten-year-olds can tell that visual realism of many games is not up to the standard of professional studios. Still, Mr Balfanz argues that it will take just one big hit for Roblox to get traction with 20-somethings quickly.

Roblox holds interest for techies as well as investors. They want to see if the firm really is, as Mr Baszucki describes it, a shepherd for the “metaverse”, the idea of a persistent virtual world in which people meet, experience things together, make money and more. Futurists and techies have speculated about this possibility for years. The Roblox economy and its virtual music concerts, like one with Lil Nas X, a rapper, in November, could be a start. The firm may look like child’s play, says Herman Narula, co-founder of Improbable, a virtual-worlds company, but platforms like it may soon become “the primary way that many of us earn a living”. Perhaps. For the time being, it is likely to make tidy sums for its financial backers. ■

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Queensland government to review sexual consent education in independent and state schools

The Palaszczuk government will review sexual education in Queensland schools to examine whether consent and reporting is being adequately addressed.

Education Minister Grace Grace has instructed the Director General to work across non-government and state education systems, as well as P&Cs and school communities, to examine the issue.

The measures will include examining the Respectful Relationships Education Program (RREP) to “ensure it adequately addresses sexual consent and reporting and seek the views of young people through the Minister’s Student Advisory Council”.

Ms Grace said Australia’s health and physical education curriculum would also be assessed to see if it was “addressing the needs of students in relation to these issues”.

Viral petition yields harrowing stories

The announcement followed disturbing claims from young Queensland students of sexual assault and rape among the thousands of allegations in the petition created by former Kambala student Chanel Contos, who called for better sex education in schools.

“Young Queenslanders have been sharing their personal stories of disturbing behaviours, including sexual violence, during and after their school years,” Ms Grace said.

On Sunday Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would raise the matter with Ms Grace this week.

Parents have a role to play

Ms Grace said parents and the community had a responsibility to support young people in addressing issues of sexual harassment, assault and consent.

“Education can play a role, and Queensland introduced compulsory respectful relationship education into state schools in response to the Not Now, Not Ever report of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland,” she said.

Greens MP for South Brisbane Amy MacMahon wrote to Ms Grace calling for consent to be taught in Queensland state schools.

“We’re finally having all these discussions about the scourge of rape and sexual assault in workplaces and schools across the country, but meanwhile Queensland schools aren’t even required to teach about consent — it’s a massive blind spot,” she said.

“I’m calling on the state government to make inclusive, trauma-informed and evidence-based education programs on sex, consent and respectful relationships compulsory in Queensland schools.

Individual schools decide how they provide programs

An Education Department spokesperson said government schools are required to provide health and wellbeing education, including respectful relationships education, as part of the Australian Curriculum or as pastoral care.

“Individual state schools determine how they provide age-appropriate programs in consultation with the local school community,” the spokesperson said.

“It is primarily up to parents and carers to educate children about sexuality and relationships. Parents may elect for their children not to participate.

“The Department of Education provides children and young people with knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about health behaviours.”

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