I hope you are having a restful summer so far, and staying healthy and safe. I am writing today to share important information about the fall, when school will start up again for the 2020-2021 school year. At the conclusion of this note you will find this information organized by topic, including school scheduling, health and safety protocols, and more. Please bookmark schools.nyc.gov/returntoschool2020, where more information is available, and which will be regularly updated as we get closer to reopening.
Our commitment to health and safety drives everything that we do. It drove the transition to remote learning this past March, when we knew that closing school buildings was essential to flattening the curve of COVID-19 infection across New York City. It was profoundly challenging, but you and your children handled it with unbelievable grace and effort, and school communities came together to make it work in historic fashion.
Now, almost four months later, our commitment to health and safety will drive us into the new school year. We have been through so much together, and as we look ahead to September, we see the big picture: the continuing rise in cases across the country; current guidance from City, State, and Federal health authorities; and the knowledge that as the trajectory of the virus continues to evolve, the guidance we must follow will also evolve. When it does, we have to be ready, and prepared to adapt. We’ve also received over 400,000 responses from families and students to a survey asking about preferences and concerns for the upcoming year, and your input has been critical in our planning.
Taken together, this picture demands we begin the 2020-21 school year in an unprecedented way—including new health protocols, physical distancing, and more. Make no mistake: New York City students will still be learning 5 days a week. A major difference is that we are preparing to deliver their education through a blended learning model. Blended learning means students will be taught on-site in school for part of the week, and will attend school remotely on the other days of the week.
Any family can also choose all-remote learning, for any reason. But we know that the majority of families want as much in-person instruction as is safely possible, and we will work to maximize it at every turn, consistent with health and safety requirements. We will continue to lead with the lens of equity and excellence, giving your child what they need to excel—and recognizing the ways that will be different from each of their classmates, especially in a time of crisis. We will not look away from the ways this virus has further magnified the effects of systemic racism in our communities. We will continue to explore opportunities to directly correct structural inequities—like closing the digital divide.
Our plans must be nimble so we can adjust and update as needed, as the public health landscape continues to evolve. We are also awaiting guidance from the State of New York, and we will be closely coordinating with them once it is released. All of the most up-to-date information will be available at schools.nyc.gov/returntoschool2020, and at the end of this letter are the most important takeaways for you at this moment. Please remember that this guidance may change as public health conditions evolve.
In closing, I want to say that I’m excited, and I’m anxious—just like you. I know that blending in-person and remote learning feels like an improvement over the all-remote experience of the last three months, but still comes with many questions and concerns. We will work with you every step of the way to answer questions around sibling scheduling, transportation, what happens if there’s a confirmed case in a school, and more. I’m committed to doing everything I can to make this easy for you—and I will not compromise on health and safety.
I always say that New York City has the best students, families, and staff in the world—and that nothing will ever change that. A safe return to schools in the fall, and the broader safety of our whole city, will require we consistently work together as partners—DOE staff, families, and students. Together we can ensure that the 1.1 million students—your children—in the NYC public school system get the education they deserve in the safest, most supportive environments possible.
Richard A. Carranza
New York City Department of Education
Return to School 2020: Critical Information
Developing Your Child’s Schedule
As of now, given current health and safety guidance, we will not be able to have 100% of students present in a school building on any given day. You should expect to hear from your school in August regarding your child’s specific schedule.
Under the blended learning model, students will be taught on-site in school buildings for part of the week, and will learn remotely from home on the other days of the week.
We know that there are families who may not feel comfortable going back into school buildings in the fall. You can elect to choose all-remote learning for your child; a web form will be shared with you on July 15 that will allow you to select that preference by August 7. Families who have chosen fully remote learning at the beginning of the school year will be allowed to transition back into in-person instruction on a quarterly basis. Once the school year begins, families can choose to go fully remote at any time.
New Health and Safety Protocols
Equity and Excellence: Our Continued Commitment
Our vision of educational equity and excellence for all students persists even during this time of crisis. We are laser focused on helping your child achieve academic excellence by providing key academic, social-emotional, and other supports to unlock their full potential to learn—no matter who they are. We remain focused on high-quality, tailored instruction for every student. In addition, here is some of what we will do to help our children reach their highest potential:
Keeping You Informed
As we finalize plans for a school year like no other in our history, we know how important it is that our students, families, and staff have the information they need to prepare. We know that for each piece of information we are providing, more questions can emerge. Please visit the Return to School 2020 webpage at schools.nyc.gov/returntoschool2020 on a regular basis for the latest updates.
Throughout the summer we will continue to engage with families, students, and community leaders—both centrally through the DOE and within each school community.
None of us ever imagined what COVID-19 would bring: the closure of public school buildings, remote teaching and learning from home, and distancing from each other to remain safe.
This has been hard work that wouldn’t be possible without your efforts and support. We know you and your children are moving mountains to keep learning going during this time, as are the more than 150,000 dedicated educators and staff at the NYC Department of Education. I am so grateful for the support you have provided your children as we all have quickly worked to adapt to this entirely new approach to education. These are disruptive and stressful times that have already come with many challenges and a constantly evolving landscape. But with your help, we are making progress every day.
In that context, I have important updates and reminders to share with you:
School Closures: The State has announced that all schools in New York State will now remain closed through April 29, 2020.
Regents Exams: The State has cancelled June 2020 Regents exams. Families of high school students will soon receive additional guidance regarding how this impacts graduation requirements. In short, students who planned to take Regents exams in June 2020 will be exempt from these exams in order to earn their diploma, but they still must complete the required course credits to graduate. Our goal is to make sure that students on track to graduate this year continue to remain on their path toward successful completion of high school.
Math and ELA Tests: The State has cancelled math and English Language Arts tests for grades 3 through 8.
AP Exams: The College Board has announced that AP exams will not be administered in school buildings, but students will be able to take AP exams at home. We will soon provide guidance to schools and students on how to implement these changes. If you are in need of a device and have not yet done so, we encourage you to complete DOE’s remote learning device survey.
Remote Learning Tools: In order to best protect security and privacy, we are requiring schools to transition away from using Zoom as a virtual meeting tool for remote learning. We know this tool is already in use by many schools and we don’t expect it to happen overnight, but we are providing support to educators to help the transition to Google Hangouts Meet or Microsoft Teams—both of which are also in consistent use by many schools.
I believe that the professionalism and dedication of our educators has never been more apparent than throughout this extraordinary crisis. They have risen to the occasion, fundamentally transforming our learning model while also attending to the altered needs of their own families.
Likewise, your support and partnership have been critical in helping our students cope, remain safe, and learn— even as you have confronted enormous stresses of your own. Thanks to everything you and our educators are doing together, I am confident that our children will continue to meaningfully engage and progress during these times.
Like our educators during this ordeal, you are truly heroes. We know this is difficult as we all learn to navigate through this unprecedented time together. But we will continue to do everything in our power to support you every step of the way.
Richard A. Carranza
Chancellor New York City Department of Education
In order to successfully fight COVID-19, our first responders, health care providers, transit workers, and other key personnel must be able to come to work. That is why we have created Regional Enrichment Centers (RECs)—places where the children of these front-line workers can be safely cared for while their parents continue to serve the city in this time of need. Staffed by DOE employees and community-based organization partners, the centers will provide children with three hot meals daily, remote learning time with their teachers, activities like art and music, and social and emotional support. Regional Enrichment Centers will be available citywide. If you are a first responder, health care provider, or transit worker whose child is a New York City resident, and you have no other child care option, please complete this survey to begin your enrollment process. You will then be contacted about assignment to a site near your home. These centers are not available for any other New Yorkers at this time. We will post additional updates and information on the DOE website about RECs as we have it at schools.nyc.gov.
Additional information about Regional Enrichment Centers:
RECs will be open from Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Each room will have a maximum of 12 children, supported by at least one adult; this size will both allow for personalized attention and will meet social distancing needs. RECs will also have nurses on site.
Children will have the opportunity to participate in remote learning with their regular school, as is the case for all NYC public school students.
Children will also have opportunities to engage in art, music, and physical education.
The environment will be safe and supportive, and staff will be prepared to respond to children’s social and emotional needs
Children will be offered a site based on their home address and their parent or caregiver’s role in providing essential services.
Students will be asked each day to bring a device they can use for remote learning if one is available. Please complete the survey today ONLY if you are a healthcare worker, first responder, or transit worker. Following survey submission, the DOE will contact you with additional details about where and how to bring your child to a REC site within 48-72 hours. If you have questions about enrollment for the Regional Enrichment Centers, please call (718) 935-2200.
Richard A. Carranza Chancellor
New York City Department of Education