BROOKLYN – NYC public schools are planning on reopening on a part-time basis in the fall with in-person classes two to threes times a week, the Mayor announced. The decision won’t be final until the Governor says so, and that can take until August.
“We will open the schools if it is safe to reopen the schools. Everyone wants the schools to be open,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “I’m not going to ask anyone to put their child in a situation that I wouldn’t put my child in. That’s how I make these decisions.”
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to keep students, teachers, and staff members safe, all NYC public schools physically shut down in March. Classes were moved online and distant-learning began. Now that COVID-19 numbers seem to be going down in the city, there are talks about what would happen come fall. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, parents want their children to go back to school.
“Parents are speaking loudly and clearly, but everyone understands, whatever we do has to be, first and foremost, seen through the prison of health and safety. So, everything we do will be with a very high bar related to health and safety,” de Blasio said at a press conference announcing the school reopening plan. “We’re going to move forward, according to the data, according to the science. We’re going to work closely every step of the way with the State of New York to make the best decision for our children, for our families, for our city. We’re going to watch to see what the data tells us. We’re going to put every precaution in place, test to make sure it’s working.”
According to the plan, there will be no more than a dozen people in a classroom at a time, including teachers and aides. For the vast majority of students and schools, students will be going to a physical school two or three times a week– other days, they’d be remote learning.
“Of course, we understand some families will choose remote learning as the only option… and they have every right to do that, and we’ll be ready,” de Blasio said. “But, basically, this blended model, this kind of split-schedule model is what we can do under current conditions. And then, let’s hope and pray science helps us out with a vaccine, with a cure, treatment, the things that will allow us to go farther.”
The key here is that families will have the option to choose whether or not they want their kids to continue fully online. On July 15th, the parent portal opens for families to sign up for fully remote instruction. July 16th will be the first virtual family information center. And August 7th is the deadline for families to choose fully remote instruction.
According to Chancellor Richard Carranza, “New York City students will be learning five days a week, whether it’s in person or at home. Here’s what will be different – students will return in September in either a blended learning model or a fully remote learning model if they so choose. 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.”
Principals of schools are considering various models of in-person attendance, determined by school buildings and the number of students enrolled. Examples were presented of two-cohort and three-cohort models.
Two-cohort “model assumes that a school has the capacity for at least 50 percent of their students to be in the building at any given time. Students will be in two or three days a week rotations,” Carranza said. “So, for example, one cohort comes to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and another cohort comes on Wednesdays and Fridays. Then the cohorts alternate on Mondays.”
A three-cohort “model assumes that a school has a capacity for at least 33 percent of its students to be in the building at any given time,” Carranza explained.
“For each group, there will be one consistent day of the week the student will be in-person, with Monday and Tuesday rotating among groups over a three-week cycle,” he said. “That way you’ll see most weeks students are in person two days, though every few weeks it will be one day only.”
Additionally, emotional learning and trauma-informed care will be integrated into school programming throughout the school year and all schools will prioritize mental health support. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued some considerations for schools to open up.
“We have to look at this as a challenge, but one that we can also find good in and possibility in,” de Blasio said. “And we’re going to ask everyone to reach and really reach deep to serve our kids.”