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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

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza released guidelines for how New York City public schools will operate for the 2020-2021 school year.


Updated Aug. 14: On Friday, Aug. 7, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that schools throughout NYC are permitted to reopen for in-person education, as long as they follow certain guidelines to keep students, teachers, and other school staff safe. The specifics of reopening, along with students’ in-person learning schedules, will be left up to the state's 700 school districts, as long as they stay within the state's guidelines, which include:

  • Districts must implement screening, including daily temperature checks to monitor symptoms for both students and staff.
  • Districts must notify state and local departments of health of positive cases.
  • Schools must comply and participate in the NYS contact tracing program.
  • Infected or exposed areas must be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Schools must work with local health departments on potential closure of classes, areas, and buildings.
  • Safeguards must be enacted to protect the health of students and employees, using masks and social distancing.
  • In-classroom instruction must be prioritized, specifically for students that need it the most.
  • Districts must maximize the use of available space in schools as well as in the community to expand in-classroom instruction.
  • Districts must focus on arts, career, and technical educations, labs, and other areas that are better for in-person instruction.
  • Districts must use innovative models, such as community schools.

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio continue to release guidelines for returning to NYC public schools for the 2020-21 year in letters to parents. Though, on Monday, Aug. 3, hundreds of NYC teachers, parents, and students marched in Lower Manhattan to protest this plan for reopening. Educators are saying they think the plan developed by the city's Department of Education is not sufficient to protect everyone and includes unrealistic measures. Some NYC schools are petitioning for outdoor schooling.

“Getting our kids back to school successfully and safely is the single biggest part of restarting our city. Parents have spoken clearly—they want their children back in school buildings to the greatest extent possible," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an update. "Our approach for the fall maximizes in person instruction while protecting health and safety of our students and educators."

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 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.

The deadline to enroll in remote-only learning for September was Aug. 7, but 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.

De Blasio also announced that 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.

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."

Timeline for the Return to NYC School

Aug. 7: Family Sign-Up for Remote-Only Closes

Aug. 14: Schools Submit Programming Model Choice

Starting Aug. 17: Families will be informed of their child(ren)’s school schedule and teachers.

Aug. 21: Superintendents Approve Exceptions



How NYC Public Schools will Keep Students and Teachers Safe

“There's a lot of things that will change, but what will not change is our fundamental commitment to our children,” de Blasio said in the Aug. 10 briefing. “We've set very stringent standards. We have to meet those standards. If at any point the situation changes, I'll be the first to say it. But so long as we can meet those standards, we're going to be ready to serve our kids in September.”

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. 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. Hand sanitizer will be supplied, and everyone will have increased access to sanitation. Schools will be cleaned nightly. 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.

“Everyone in the school building is working with extraordinary energy, including the custodial teams, School Construction Authority, everyone, to maximize health and safety in the building, and ventilation is absolutely a part of the puzzle here,” de Blasio said of ensuring every classroom is safe and has proper ventilation. “If any classroom we feel is not fit, we simply won't use it. We'll just segment it off and keep going until we do feel it's ready to go.” He also mentioned that in warmer weather, classrooms will have windows open to the maximum extent possible to improve the circulation of fresh air.

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:

Parents might be concerned about how their kids will handle going back to school, and Carranza noted that schools will integrate social-emotional learning and “trauma-informed care” into instruction and prioritize providing students with mental health support. We will share more details on these plans as they become available. 

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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