Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter celebrated the culmination of the 2020-2021 school year with students, educators, families, and staff during school visits and ceremonies from Harlem to Hollis this week. As COVID-19 cases drop to their lowest levels in over a year and vaccination rates continue to rise, the Chancellor shared messages of optimism and recovery as preparations for a full return to in-person learning this fall proceed.
She also thanked school leaders, teachers, staff and families, who were integral in making New York City the first major school district in the nation to reopen buildings for in-person learning.
“Students have gone through a year unlike any other – and they’ve done it with grit, courage, and a passion for learning that will stay with them forever,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I’m enormously proud of all they’ve accomplished this year, and I’m grateful to every faculty member who joined them on this journey. I wish every student a fun and fulfilling summer, and I look forward to seeing full classrooms of eager learners next fall.”
“On this last day of school, I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the amazing students, families, educators, principals and staff who went above and beyond to support one another and end this school year on a high note,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. “We reopened our doors when no other major district in the nation did, and your tremendous resiliency and hard work makes me so proud to be your Chancellor. I’m already looking forward to Summer Rising and a strong start to school in September.”
As school communities prepare to welcome students to in-person learning full-time next fall, their work will be guided by the best practices learned over the past fifteen months.
Setting & Keeping the Health and Safety Gold Standard
Health and safety has been the first priority this school year and will continue to guide the approach to the full return to in-person learning in the fall. COVID-19 testing in schools began during the 2020-2021 school year, beginning with about 1,800 tests administered daily.
That number ramped up to 17,000 a day, with a record total of 1.5 million COVID-19 tests administered in schools throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Throughout the testing program, the positivity rate never rose above 1 percent in schools, even as positivity rates in New York City reached 9 percent.
With the current 7-day rolling average positivity rate in schools standing at 0.03 percent, schools have proven to be among the safest places in New York City.
The testing program was operated in conjunction with the establishment of the Situation Room, in partnership with NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the NYC Test and Trace Corps, and NYC Department of Buildings staff, who came together to support school communities in this time of need.
The Situation Room ensured swift response to any positive cases, close monitoring of classroom and school closures, and immediate communication to schools and parents.
In partnership with DOHMH, there were 34 school vaccination sites for employees, family members, students ages 12+ and community members in the month of June.
Ensuring No New Yorker Goes Hungry
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 130 million meals have been served to students, families, and members of the community.
The work preventing hunger will not stop this summer, with nearly 400 community sites opening across the city and meals being provided to students at every Summer Rising site.
Nutritious grab-and-go meals are available to all New Yorkers regardless of where they live. The most up-to-date list of sites can be found at schools.nyc.gov/freemeals.
Building Trust with Families
Family engagement is at the center of the DOE’s preparations for the fall, and this spring the Chancellor held a family forum in each of the five boroughs to hear directly from school communities about their experiences over the school year, help answer questions and gather feedback on the Executive Budget, specifically the new federal stimulus funding, and foster discussions on school opening for the fall.
The forums covered a wide range of topics, including health and safety, special education, fall 2021, and social-emotional learning.
This month, schools began to offer Open Houses so families who have been remote can familiarize themselves with the gold-standard safety measures that all buildings will adhere to.
Principals are opening the doors of their schools to welcome back families who have been learning remotely so that they can get reacquainted with the building safety protocols and have a space to ask any questions that may remain.
Schools will continue hosting these throughout the summer leading up to the opening of schools to all students for in-person learning on September 13th.
Ensuring Academic Rigor
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, our educators and students rose to the challenge of ensuring our students received quality instruction every day.
Schools ensured academic rigor and support by tailoring instruction and resources to meet students where they are in order to help all students succeed.
Reconnecting Over Summer
For the first time, the City will fully integrate the strengths of DOE academic enrichment and interventions with the Department of Youth & Community Development’s (DYCD) school-based enrichment and extra-curricular programming through Summer Rising.
Students in grades K–8 will get outside, learn, and engage with peers and caring adults in safe, supervised and enriching ways.
Summer Rising is a critical opportunity for students to receive academic and other supports and reconnect with their school communities.
In addition, Summer Rising is an opportunity for high school students to finish incomplete courses and participate in academic acceleration.
Students can be connected to important work experience and internship opportunities with community-based organizations and employers through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
Investing in Communities
This year, the Mayor and Chancellor announced historic investments in New York City school communities, which will provide targeted funding to kick-start the City’s recovery from all that has been experienced over the past year and to support students academically and emotionally.
Students will be welcomed back to strong schools, and welcoming, affirming learning environments with high expectations for all of our students.
Proposed investments include:
- $600 million to bring all schools to 100 percent Fair Student Funding
- $500 million for intensive academic support for every public-school student
- $377 million to begin to make 3-K available for every family in the City
- $155 million to support technology investments for students
- $12 million for the expansion of restorative justice programming
- $10 million to expand Community Schools across the City
The Mayor’s proposed Executive Budget also includes supports to grow the teacher pipeline programs back to pre-pandemic levels, following the devastating economic effects of COVID-19 that led to a reduction in training program sizes last year.
The DOE’s teacher pipeline programs are part of a holistic and proactive strategy to recruit and train new and existing staff to become teachers in schools, particularly in high-needs areas such as District 75 and underserved communities, across the City.
Thanks to unprecedented investments from federal, state, and local governments, this year will see:
- A total of 900 new Teaching Fellow Fall cohort participants, up from 75 last year;
- A projected 300 paraprofessional-to-educator pipeline participants, up from 25 last year;
- A new substitute-to-educator pipeline pilot that trains 25 current substitutes to work in District 75 schools; and
- The continuation of the NYC Teaching Collaborative which recruits and trains career changers to teach in high-needs areas.
This will result in 1,250 new hires for the highest-need subject areas for fall 2021 – up from approximately 500 for the current school year.
Additionally, over 600 social workers, psychologists, and family support workers will be hired to ensure every student has the social-emotional support they need.
This means that every school will have at least one full-time social worker or school-based mental health clinic – in addition to other pre-existing supports like Community School programs and resources across the city, such as NYC Health + Hospitals and ThriveNYC.
In total, over 6,000 social workers, guidance counselors, and school psychologists will provide support to schools this fall, in addition to community-based resources.
“Throughout 2020-2021 school year, the incredible resiliency of NYC students and families was on full display,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “Now that the summer months are upon us, and New York City is on a collective path to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that the needs of students and families are truly prioritized moving forward. Unprecedented investments in summer enrichment programming and school-based mental health services are significant steps forward regarding that prioritization. I look forward to working with Chancellor Porter and the NYC DOE in order to help ensure that NYC schools continue their transformation into healing-centered spaces.”
“Congratulations to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and staff on the successful completion of a school year full of unique challenges. As we emerge from the pandemic, we look forward to a full and safe return to in-person learning this fall. The Legislature’s historic investment in our schools this year will help our school communities rebuild better and stronger, providing all New York City students with the high quality education they deserve,” said Senator John Liu.
“The NYC Department of Education and Test & Trace has truly stepped up to ensure the health and safety of our schools and communities in administering 1.5 million vaccines to New Yorkers”, said Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “This is no small feat given that vaccines just became available in December; and DOE had already been providing education, meals, and support to students, parents, and neighbors since this pandemic began. Reaching this milestone on the last day of school will ensure that the next first day of school is a safer one for all.”
“It’s a great landmark and a great milestone that has been reached, and it begins to assure our communities that we can return to normalcy in the New York City Department of Education, and your efforts are to be congratulated–I congratulate you all,” said Assembly Member Michael Benedetto.
“COVID testing is part of the good practice to keep track and in control of this still dangerous virus. I applaud the DOE for its aggressive approach to keeping our children, teachers, and school staff safe and reaching this commendable goal of 1.5 million COVID-19 tests. I am pleased that New Yorkers are participating in this good practice; however, we will be closer to achieving our goal to eradicate COVID if everyone does their part and gets vaccinated, and help us urge friends, relatives, and acquaintances to make it their duty to also get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Assembly Member N. Nick Perry.
“We recognize the importance of today’s milestone — the last day of school — as a tribute to the strong leadership of our local government, dedicated educators, school administrators, health professionals, parent advocates, and entire school communities. I join Chancellor Porter and my fellow leaders in commending the success of our students and faculty, who have reconciled health, safety, and continued learning in this difficult time. I also stand in full support of continued academic and family engagement in the summer months ahead as we ensure true educational equity for all students upon their return to school in September,” Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson.
“School communities moved heaven and earth to support students this year, in the backdrop of a pandemic, uncertainty, and untold amounts of trauma,” said City Council Education Chair Mark Treyger. “Connections deepened in an era of physical distancing. I am eternally grateful to our school families—parents, students, teachers, administrators, social workers and counselors, school food workers, cleaners and custodians, bus drivers, learning lab providers, and all school staff—for their ceaseless dedication to children. Our students are exceptionally resilient; the path to recovery is steep, but all of our school communities deserve a moment of celebration to honor their incredible work over the past year, under the most difficult of circumstances.”
“Our students, families, teachers, and staff have shown remarkable resilience this school year, and should be immensely proud for their hard work as we enter the summer,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “With the lowest levels of COVID-19 in over a year, and an encouraging rise in vaccination rates in our schools, I look forward to the return of in-person learning in the fall. I hope every student has a fun, relaxing, and productive summer!”
“Our students, families, educators and staff have done a heroic job over the last year. They deserve high praise for their resilience and dedication to educational excellence. For many kids, summer means camp and traveling. For others, it means the end of regular food and isolation. My office has been providing free groceries and services every week, and we will continue without a pause over the summer. I urge fellow New Yorkers to continue the generosity and communal spirit that helped us through this difficult year,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr..
Photo credit: Meisha Porter
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