This is our daily update following the reopening of NYC schools for Tuesday, October 13th, 2020.

Here's the latest:

The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless are threatening to take the city to court after finding homeless students without any reliable internet service for remote learning inside shelters.

In a letter addressed to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and city Department of Homeless Services commissioner Stephen Banks, the groups focused specifically on the Flatlands Family Residence shelter in Brooklyn. There, students were given iPads by the city Department of Education in the spring, but could not use them after finding "unreliable or nonexistent cell service inside the building." The data service was provided by T-Mobile under its contract with the city.

After learning of the spotty service, T-Mobile attempted to fix the problem at the shelter by dispatching technicians to the building, but were not allowed inside. T-Mobile provided so-called "dead zone" maps -- determining where spotty service exists in New York City -- to the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless, which found that Flatlands "is rife" with dead zones. This has made it extremely difficult for students to connect with cellular service.

The issue is also prevalent at the Regent Family Residence and Children's Rescue Fund House East, according to the letter. It's forced many families to desperately seek an internet connection elsewhere, sometimes traveling to "fast food restaurants to ensure that they can participate in important meetings or classes."

Though the digital divide has long existed across New York City, it's been further underscored by the DOE's pandemic-era hybrid learning model. Students have split their time between in-person and remote learning, making internet access a crucial tool for learning. There are currently 25,000 public school students who are homeless with no guarantee of reliable internet access.

The groups are giving the city until October 15th to fix the problem, hinting that they're leaning toward suing the city. "Litigation should be unnecessary when the basic educational rights of children living in DHS shelters -- children who face unimaginable challenges even in the absence of a pandemic -- are at stake," read the letter.

“We’ve prioritized getting our most vulnerable students the technology they need, and we’ve distributed 15,000 internet-enabled iPads to students experiencing homelessness and residing in NYC DHS shelters," said DOE spokesperson Sara Casasnovas in an email to Gothamist. "We’ve purchased an additional 100,000 iPads to be distributed over the fall, prioritizing students in shelter, and we have been in shelters this week with our agency partners and T-Mobile assessing coverage and working to address any connectivity issues. We will review the letter.”

At a Council hearing on Tuesday discussing the digital divide, John Paul Farmer, the chief technology officer for the city, testified that he and his team have been working with DHS "to make sure that every child, particularly including those who are living in shelters have what they need to learn online."

New Admissions Calendar For Elite Schools Coming In “Days And Weeks,” De Blasio Says

1:20 p.m. The city Department of Education is adjusting dates and deadlines for the admissions process for highly coveted middle and high schools. Officials said they’re altering the timeline because of disruptions caused by COVID-19, though no new dates have been released.

At his news conference on Tuesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city had to put the new admissions calendar on hold as it got the “nation’s largest public school system up and running in a healthy, safe manner, and work through very intensive logistics to make that work.”

De Blasio added of the dates, “I think parents again understand we’re in uncharted territory for this school year, hopefully only this school year, but we will get answers out to parents in the coming days and weeks on those very topics and we’ll make clear with them how to proceed.”

Registration for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test is not open yet, and the deadline for registration is no longer October 21st. Test dates have not been released. The high school application is not yet open, and no longer closes on December 4th. There will also be new audition dates announced for LaGuardia High School.

Some parents who support current admissions policies and the SHSAT worry that de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carranza will use the disruption caused by the coronavirus to push through changes to how middle school and high schools admit students. The DOE told Gothamist/WNYC there are no plans to change the admissions policies for next year.

Many schools rely on state test scores to evaluate whether to accept students, but those tests weren’t administered last spring. The education department also announced last spring that attendance -- a factor in determining whether students will be accepted to a school -- will not be counted this year. Grading policies also changed during the spring semester and have not yet been updated. De Blasio and Carranza have been vocal critics of the SHSAT. But de Blasio’s efforts to eliminate the test have not been successful.

State Senator and education committee chair John Liu called the delay part of “the continuous disarray and dysfunction” facing public school families. “It is imperative that the DOE provide clear information and [a] timeframe ASAP, and not use COVID to change long-standing policy suddenly and unilaterally.”

PS 188 in Manhattan on its opening day on September 29th.

John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock

First Day Of Random COVID-19 Testing In City Schools Shows Low Positivity Rate

12:15 p.m. The city’s random COVID-19 testing protocol at public schools started Friday at 56 schools, and of 1,751 test results received, there was one positive case, according to the city Department of Education. That breaks down to a .06 percent positivity rate, far below the current citywide positivity rate of 1.48 precent.

“That's really, really encouraging and it shows how important it is to constantly keep a lookout and constantly focused on testing,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a morning press briefing on Tuesday.

The state last week also released new testing guidelines for schools in the newly-designated yellow zones, which Governor Andrew Cuomo deemed areas to monitor in his Cluster Action Initiative. Those yellow zone schools will have mandatory weekly testing of 20 percent of the student and staff. This will be in addition to the city’s existing plans to test 10-20 percent of all students and staff participating in in-person learning at New York’s 1,600 public schools monthly, depending on the size of the student body.

De Blasio reminded parents to submit their students’ testing consent forms. “Remember, the testing is quick, it's easy, it's free it's available right there at the school or near the school,” he said.

He also announced there will be an online "NYC Office Hours" Q&A Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. with the mayor’s senior advisor for Public Health, Dr. Jay Varma, for parents and students to learn more about the DOE's COVID-19 testing policies. The Q&A can be streamed on the Mayor’s Office Youtube channel and on its Twitter and Facebook accounts, and parents can submit questions using the #NYCOfficeHours hashtag.