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Here's What the 2020-2021 NYC Public School Year Will Look Like

Here's What the 2020-2021 NYC Public School Year Will Look Like

Here's the latest on what's happening at NYC schools during the 2020-2021 school year.

Updated Feb. 8: 3K through fifth grade and District 75 schools are currently learning in person and middle and high schools are learning remotely. de Blasio's middle school reopening plan to reopen on Feb. 25 has been released. He has not yet offered a clear timeline for high schools, though he hopes they will reopen at some point this school year.

The 2020-2021 NYC DOE school year began on Sept. 16. Students spent the first few days of school online learning and in-person instruction began for some on Sept. 21. In-person instruction (for those who have opted for it) began for all grades on on Monday, Oct. 5.

Children in public or charter schools who meet certain criteria can be eligible for an iPad with priority given to those in shelter or foster care. If you are interested in requesting a device for your child, fill out this form. 

de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza's reopening "Back to School Pledge" outlines the City's safety and health commitments to students, parents, and the school community prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The pledge includes:

  • Health and safety always come first
  • NYC public schools will be cleaned and disinfected, day and night
  • Students will learn five days a week 

You can read the full pledge here.

RELATED: Read our Back-to-School issue today!

COVID-19 Cluster Zones in New York

If a school is located in a red or orange micro-cluster zone, it must close immediately. In order for a school to reopen in a red or orange micro-cluster zone, schools must remain closed for at least four calendar days after the zone is announced and ensure that no person may attend in-person learning on the campus without first receiving a negative test result. Here's more information on these reopening guidelines.

The city released this tool for New Yorkers to determine what COVID-19 Zone their school is located in.  For more detailed information about the cluster zones and what they mean, click here

2020-2021 NYC Public School Calendar

  • Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 16-18: Fully remote, partial school days for students
  • Monday, Sept. 21: First full day of school; blended learning commences for 3-K, pre-K, and District 75 schools
  • Monday, Sept. 28: Yom Kippur, schools closed
  • Tuesday, Sept. 29: K-5 and K-8 schools in-person learning begins
  • Thursday, Oct. 1: Middle and high schools, secondary schools, transfer/ adult education in-person learning begins
  • Monday, Oct. 12: Columbus Day, schools closed
  • Tuesday, Nov. 3: Election Day, fully remote instructional day for all students
  • Wednesday, Nov. 4: Evening parent teacher conferences for elementary schools and K-8 schools
  • Thursday, Nov. 5: Afternoon parent teacher conferences for elementary schools and K-8 schools; students in these schools dismissed three hours early
  • Wednesday, Nov. 11: Veterans Day, schools closed
  • Thursday, Nov. 12: Evening parent teacher conferences for high schools, K-12, and 6-12 schools
  • Friday, Nov. 13: Afternoon parent teacher conferences for high schools, K-12, and 6-12 schools; students in these schools dismissed three hours early.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 18: Evening parent teacher conferences for middle schools and District 75 school programs
  • Thursday, Nov. 19: Afternoon conferences for middle schools and District 75 school programs; students in these schools dismissed three hours early
  • Thursday-Friday, Nov. 26-27: Thanksgiving Recess, schools closed
  • Thursday-following Friday, Dec. 24- Jan. 1: Winter Recess, schools closed
  • Monday, Jan. 18: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, schools closed
  • Monday, Feb. 1: Professional Development Day for 9-12 and 6-12 schools in Districts 1-32 only; students in these schools do not attend. Students in K-5 and D75 schools and programs are in attendance.
  • Friday, Feb. 12: Lunar New Year, schools closed
  • Monday-Friday, Feb. 15-19: Midwinter Recess (includes President's Day and Lincoln's Birthday), schools closed
  • Wednesday, March 3: Evening parent teacher conferences for elementary schools and K-8 Schools
  • Thursday, March 4: Afternoon parent teacher conferences for elementary schools and K–8 schools; students in these schools dismissed three hours early.
  • Wednesday, March 10: Evening parent teacher conferences for middle schools and district 75 schools and programs.
  • Thursday, March 11: Afternoon parent teacher conferences for middle schools and district 75 schools and programs; students in these schools dismissed three hours early.
  • Thursday, March 18: Evening parent teacher conferences for high schools, K–12, and 6–12 schools.
  • Friday, March 19: Afternoon parent teacher conferences for high schools, K–12, and 6–12 schools; students in these schools dismissed three hours early.
  • Monday-Friday, March 29-April 2: Spring Recess, schools closed
  • Thursday, May 13: Eid Al-Fitr, schools closed
  • Monday, May 31: Memorial Day, schools closed
  • Thursday, June 3: Anniversary Day. Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development. Students not in attendance.
  • Tuesday, June 8: Clerical Day for K­–5, K–6, 6–8, and K–12 and D75 schools and programs only; students in these schools do not attend. Students in 9–12 and 6–12 schools in Districts 1–32 are in attendance.
  • Friday, June 25: Last day of school for all students.

What to know about Coronavirus testing in NYC schools:

Consenting to Coronavirus Testing:

The Department of Education is encouraging parents to consent to having their child tested for Coronavirus in schools in order to best monitor COVID-19 transmission in schools. If families refuse, they will be forced to switch their students to remote learning only. 

Your consent will remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2021, but you can withdraw consent at any time in writing. 

The Testing Process:

Testing will take place for grades 1-12 once a month during the school day in NYC via nasal swabs and saliva tests. Students and staff will be selected at random, tested in a designated area in the school, and then will return to class. Some test kits can be self-administered by older students and others will be done by a trained tester. In order to reduce the risk of COVID-19, parents will not be able to accompany students to the test. Testing will be quick and gentle, taking students out of class for no more than 15-30 minutes total, according to NYC Schools. In order to have an accurate understanding of each school's population, testing  must be done in a single day in the school building and by one provider, so if you have your child tested elsewhere, that does not relinquish your child from in-school mandatory testing.

Getting Test Results:

You will be notified by the school two days before your schools scheduled test and test results will be available within 48-72 hours of when the sample is taken. Generally, your child's results will be available to you within that time period. If your child tests positive, you should keep her home from school and contact her physician. Test & Trace Corps will contact your family to provide additional resources, care, and support. Testing results will be shared within the school community, but your child's name and other identifying information will be kept confidential. 

Note that every testing partner will provide services to students in their preferred language. If your child has a documented disability, you should contact the school to discuss how to proceed. 

How the 2020 NYC School Year Will Be Set Up

In New York City, classroom attendance will be limited to 1 to 3 days a week (depending on the school’s student body size), likely with no more than 12 people allowed in one classroom at a time. Rest assured, “Schools will be in session five days per week. Students will be learning five days per week, no matter where they are,” Carranza said in an Aug. 10 briefing. 

The NYC DOE announced it will be adding a total of 4,500 total educators to schools and classrooms immediately. Individuals will be hired from a DOE substitute teacher pool, current DOE staff, and the CUNY System (graduate students, adjunct professors, etc.)

The NYC DOE created three models of in-person instruction that schools can choose from, based on the size of and what works best for the student body, along with an all-remote learning model parents can choose for any reason:

  • Model 1: "Students will receive in-person instruction for the same two days every week, as well as every other Monday."
  • Model 2: Students will receive in-person instruction 1-2 days a week.
  • Model 3 (available to middle and high schools only): Allows "students to be in-person two days and remote four days in a six-day cycle."

District 75 schools will have two additional model options. Students with IEPs will be offered in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible. Multilingual students, Carranza said, will receive instruction that will keep them progressing in both languages.

Once the school year begins, you can choose to go fully remote at any time. We now know that 74 percent of NYC students will participate in in-person learning and 26 percent will begin the school year in fully remote learning. “We can expect about eighty-five percent of our teacher workforce or about sixty-six thousand educators to be teaching in a blended mode as well,” Carranza said in the Aug. 10 briefing. Approximately 15 percent of teachers have requested to work from home. "Those who are granted that accommodation will exclusively teach remotely but…they will still be engaged and devoted as ever to educating the children of New York City, because that's who they are," Carranza said.

The city will offer free day care to 100,000 students for the days they are not going into school in person to help alleviate parents' stress of online learning. InsideSchools, a website providing insight to the NYC education scene, is now offering a free online class for families called "How to Support Online Learning at Home." The course provides insight to families to help them navigate the online learning process, with everything including your goals, online learning in NYC schools, the challenges of online learning, getting the most out of your family's devices, creating a learning schedule, and activity ideas to complement your child's learning.

In addition, more than 300,000 iPads have been distributed to those who need them to help provide a quality, online academic experience for New York City students. NYC teachers are also being trained to be more effective online instructors. According to Carranza, the curriculum will be updated to reflect the blended learning model and to "include appropriate social-emotional learning and mental health supports."

How NYC Public Schools will Keep Students and Teachers Safe

Outdoor learning is an option being presented to some schools. de Blasio encourages all public, private, and charter schools in NYC to use outdoor space for learning, whether on their own property, with city help, or elsewhere. The plan follows pleas from educators, parents, advocates, and officials asking the mayor to allow schools to hold classes outside where the risk of infection is lower. de Blasio says it is up to the school's principals to determine how to use outdoor school property that's outdoors, but the DOE will work with principals to open up more space—like local parks and streets—if it's needed. Schools in the 27 neighborhoods hit hardest by the virus will receive first priority for outdoor space options.

Here are some key things to know about how NYC’s public schools will keep everyone safe:

Face masks and social distancing are required.

All people in every school building will be required to wear face coverings and stay 6 feet apart from others. Disposable masks will be provided to whoever needs them. According to de Blasio, 4 million face masks will be distributed to NYC schools along with 210,000 safety signs to enforce social distancing. Carranza told parent leaders that students who refuse to wear masks in school, with the exception of those who can't wear them for health or developmental reasons, will be sent home and prohibited from in-person learning, reports Chalkbeat.

The schools are severely limiting the number of students in the classroom at one time with the in-person learning models outlined above. Plus, the DOE is in talks with the diocese and archdiocese to use some of the former Catholic school buildings to give the public schools more room to spread out, according to de Blasio.

Schools will have hygiene supplies on hand.

The DOE is purchasing large orders of hygiene supplies for schools, including face coverings for students, teachers, and staff; disinfectant; and electrostatic sprayers. 3.5 million bottles of hand sanitizer and 80,000 canisters of disinfectant wipes will be distributed to NYC schools, along with 7,350 maintenance staff working to disinfect schools nightly. Schools will be disinfected with electrostatic disinfecting sprays. De Blasio also announced that every school building in New York City will have a certified nurse by the fall.

Systems will be upgraded so buildings have better ventilation.

As part of each school's reopening plans, school ventilation action teams have inspected all NYC classrooms to ensure that their ventilation systems are safe for use during school. Rooms that don't pass inspection will either be brought to standard before the school year begins or will not be used. Teams are made up of independent experts and engineers, according to Carranza. Each action team has a checklist with room size and occupancy, whether windows can open, and examinations and supply of exhaust fans. 

The Department of Education is establishing a new hotline for principals to call should they need to expedite the delivery of any of these materials. According to Chancellor Carranza, unannounced spot inspections of schools will be done to monitor the safety of each building.

School bus regulations will be set

Parents are still waiting for specific details from their districts regarding bussing, but these precautions will be taken across districts:

  • 25 percent capacity
  • Face masks required
  • Students will be seated next to a window in every other row
  • Only siblings will be permitted to sit together
  • Buses will be disinfected every day

Parents won’t be allowed in school buildings, for the most part.

When asked about separation and issues with preschoolers transitioning into the school day, de Blasio said we have to be careful about parents coming into school buildings, so it largely won’t happen. “I can tell you many scenes from the childhoods of my children, where I thought in their youngest years, they were going to have a horrible separation experience and I was ready to stick with them and help them through, and what quickly became apparent is they couldn't wait to see their friends, and they said a very quick goodbye to me and ran into the classroom,” he said. “Our youngest kids are incredibly adaptable. …The first days as always will be a little bit challenging, but then we'll find a way to make it work.”

Test and trace protocols are in place.

On July 30, Carranza and de Blasio announced test and trace protocols that will apply to all school communities and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. All staff members will be asked to take a COVID-19 test in the days before the first day of school and will have priority for free, expedited testing at 34 city-run testing locations. All schools will be required to enact precautions to help prevent, identify, and address the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • An isolation room for students with symptoms with a staff member or health professional
  • Physical distancing and face coverings
  • Cleaning throughout the day and nightly disinfecting
  • Clear communication with families and the school community

If a student or teacher feels sick, they have to stay home and, if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, get tested. If a student feels symptoms while at school, they will be isolated by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their parent. Staff members who became symptomatic at school must immediately leave the building.

“On top of having the medical personnel available to each school, we're going to have a very strong presence in our schools, from the Test and Trace Corps as well, to make sure in the event of any case that there's immediate follow-up at the school level,” de Blasio said.

The DOE is working with DOHMH and the NYC Test + Trace Corps to facilitate fast action and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Decisions to quarantine classrooms or close schools will be based off of the conclusions of potential investigations. The details of potential investigative conclusions are outlined below:

Cuomo also announced that all New York schools—including K-12 and SUNY schools—will be required to provide the Department of Health with daily data on the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to create a COVID Report Card. A SUNY system-wide COVID-19 case tracker dashboard went live this past weekend and is designed to provide real-time information on coronavirus cases, testing, quarantine, and isolation space across SUNY's 64 colleges and universities.

Parents might be concerned about how their kids will handle going back to school, and  de Blasio and Carranza have announced The Bridge to School Plan which aims to support students, educators, and parents throughout the city with guided language activities, community building exercises, and social emotional learning lessons and activities. This program will aim to help children build coping skills and expand teachers' access to trauma response. NYC principals began trauma response and educational practice training this summer and all school staff will be offered this training when the school year begins. 

With the help of Child Mind Institute, an NYC DOE help line is being implemented for educators to call and access best practices to help students with mental health. 

Bookmark this page on your browser to check back for more information as the summer progresses. The DOE will also host a series of Family & Student Information Sessions, Carranza’s document says, to answer any questions you might have. You can follow NYMetroParents for school updates as well, and subscribe to our newsletter. This school year will be an unprecedented one, but we’re here to help you figure out the best decisions for your family.

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