This is our daily update following the reopening of NYC schools for Monday, December 1st, 2020.

Here's the latest:

The city is fighting a judge's ruling that the DOE is required to offer Catholic school students and staff the same COVID-19 test screenings it provides public schools for free.

Last week, a state supreme court judge found that the city is responsible for providing all 172 Catholic schools in the city with the testing kits already available at public schools, agreeing with the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit that argues such a provision is covered under state education law. Attorneys with the city Law Department quickly appealed to a higher court.

Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the city’s appeal of the decision on Tuesday, citing state law and the DOE's responsibilities to public school students.

“We got a huge number of kids to serve. We need all the resources that we have right now,” de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The law is clear that our obligation is to ensure that the facilities we run, we're providing the testing to.”

Public schools will begin a phased reopening on December 7th with more testing of students who've opted for in-person learning.

The lawsuit was heard on November 23rd, two weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo instituted a yellow zone for a large chunk of Staten Island. This triggered a weekly testing protocol for 26 Catholic schools on Staten Island, with 20% of students and staffers at each school required to be tested if diocese officials wanted to keep them open. (The lawsuit does not mention the orange zone designated for the southern part of Staten Island, which went into effect after the suit was filed.)

The lawsuit cites State Education Law 912 that states a board of education must provide non-public school students with the same "health and welfare" services as public school students, including COVID-19 tests. In its lawsuit, Diocese officials mentioned the costs associated with sustaining the COVID testing program are simply too much. They are currently relying on the SOMOS health network to administer tests for schools in Staten Island’s yellow zone.

De Blasio said he’s spoken to Cardinal Timothy Dolan on the city’s position, and has offered help navigating bureaucracy to obtain state-sponsored tests.

"Our obligation right now is to continue the process of having New York City public schools be open and healthy and safe,” de Blasio said. “But it takes an immense amount of resources.”

Michael Deegan, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of New York, said de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza appear to be undermining the successes of non-public schools in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

"I wouldn’t want to believe that some in city government would see our success as a threat and are thus doing whatever they can to thwart us. But it’s hard to avoid that impression after what the DOE has put us through," Deegan wrote in an op-Ed piece in the NY Post. "The mayor has been on the news lately, saying (rightly) that the key to reopening schools is testing and more testing. That’s great to hear. Why, then, are he and Carranza so dead-set against following state law, now backed by a court order, requiring public and nonpublic kids to receive the same testing resources?"

Youngest Public School Students To Be Exempt From Weekly COVID-19 Tests

1:10 p.m.: The city is not requiring parents of public school students from pre-K and kindergarten to submit consent forms for the COVID-19 randomized test program, citing the substantially lower risk for virus transmission among young children.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the revised policy shift, deferring to city health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, who stressed there is little evidence to suggest that children are potent COVID-19 vectors.

"This isn't to say that there aren't situations where they may need to get tested," Dr. Chokshi said. "It's still possible for a younger child to get infected with COVID-19. And if they develop symptoms they should certainly get tested as well. But in terms of what we're doing with the more routine testing in schools, that's the rationale for the difference."

Older students returning to school on December 7th must have a consent form on file or they won't be allowed back into the classroom, and will be transferred completely to remote learning.

The revised policy comes just under a week before tens of thousands of students will return to school, two and a half weeks from the time the city passed the 3% rolling positive testing rate for COVID-19, triggering a school shutdown systemwide.

Despite positive testing rates remaining above 3%, de Blasio announced a plan to reopen schools with a greater emphasis on testing. Students in pre-K and kindergarten through fifth grade will return to classes first on December 7th. That translates to a total of 190,000 young students returning to the classroom, with 20% of those students in grades above kindergarten now required to take part in a weekly randomized testing program. In-person learners in grades 6-12 -- comprising of 125,000 students -- will likely return to school next year, de Blasio said on Monday.

The decision also reduces the number of tests the city must perform as the demand for testing across the city increases. De Blasio has said that the city has enough supplies to carry out weekly testing of 20% of a school's population.

Special education students in District 75 schools expected to return on December 10th and will also be required to take part in the randomized test program.