New York City plans to provide child care for 100,000 children once its schools partially reopen in the fall with the goal of expanding that capacity even further during the school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

New York’s schools have preliminary plans for a “blended learning” approach for its 1.1 million students, relying on a combination of in-person and remote learning beginning in September. With the current hybrid plan, most students would be inside their physical schools just two or three days a week as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The new child care capacity will be available to parents on the days that a child’s school is remote and “regardless of ability to pay,” de Blasio and other city officials said Thursday when announcing the plan.

“We’ve got to give more ability to parents who need to get back to work …child care will make all the difference in the world,” de Blasio said at a new conference.

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The city will use community centers, libraries and cultural organizations, among other buildings, to accommodate the influx of demand. “We’re going to use every conceivable space,” the mayor added.

The city announced its preliminary plans for school reopenings last week, and de Blasio said there is a large demand for child care so parents can more easily return to work or work from home. The new capacity will will give parents “balance” and “relief” in their lives, he said.

De Blasio said the city was building the new child care capacity “from scratch.”

“We’re having to create something that didn’t exist before on this scale to accommodate a new need and a new reality,” the mayor said.

The system will also be tailored to the children’s ages, with different approaches to care for early childhood and K-8th grade children.

Melanie Hartzog, the city’s budget director, said the days in the city’s care are being framed as “learning labs,” which will include the use of libraries and cultural institutions and feature arts, recreation, tutoring and possible field trips.

Hartzog said the program will follow public health officials’ guidance to ensure children and staff’s safety to prevent the spread of the virus. Additional investments in personal protective equipment will be made, too, Hartzog said.

De Blasio last week called school reopenings “the single biggest part of restarting our city.” However, most schools are not able to bring students back while also maintaining safe social distance, he added. 

“When you think about social distancing, you need more space,” de Blasio said. “You’re going to have fewer kids in a classroom, fewer kids in the school building.”

Parents will also have the option for their students to remain remote full time. 

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Despite the city’s announcement of its plans, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that it would be up to the state to give the official approval for a reopening plan. Cities and counties have until July 31 to submit their reopening plans to the state, which will give approval in August. Cuomo has said he wants to see if the virus will spike in the coming weeks.

While New York City and the surrounding area — once the global epicenter of the pandemic — were devastated by COVID-19 in the spring, the state has seen low numbers of new cases in recent weeks. Elsewhere around the country, the virus is spiking.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New York mayor Bill de Blasio announces fall child care amid COVID-19

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