July 8, 2020: Return to School
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. Please bookmark schools.nyc.gov/returntoschool2020 (Open external link), 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 Return to School 2020. 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