Last year, a police officer put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds, but to me, it felt like an eternity.
I felt pain and rage, deep in my bones. It wasn’t a new feeling. I have felt that many times in my life, as a Black woman, sister, daughter, and mother to Black children—and as an educator who has served children of color in this city for more than 20 years.
That pain, rage, and fear has been present throughout the trial of the officer who killed George Floyd. I feel like I have been watching George Floyd die again and again, renewing the tragedy each time, as the jury and the nation have confronted what happened in the pursuit of justice for Mr. Floyd—and the family who is forced to go on without him.
And now, the first step toward justice has been served.
For me as a Black woman, for my brothers, for my mother and aunts who lost their brother to police violence, getting to justice is so important.
For our Black and brown children to know that they matter, the accountability this verdict represents is so important. In a world that too often tells them otherwise, accountability in this moment tells the Black and brown children in our schools that their lives matter, and lifts up the importance of their futures.
This is what anchors the work we do in schools every day—why we are so focused on creating welcoming, loving environments for all our children. We want to make sure that each child doesn’t just hear, but feels that they are important. We want them to feel that their teachers and school community value their past and present experiences, as well as their dreams for the future.
For more than 20 years, I have experienced the sensitivity and wisdom of children—they know what’s going on, even those who may not be able to put it into words. They can feel the energy of the world around them. So we are making sure our schools are safe spaces for students to share their feelings. Every school is receiving resources to help facilitate open conversations and ensure our children have their questions heard.
We also have mental health support in place for our students, teachers and staff to help grapple with any feelings that emerge. Because while the individual who took George Floyd’s life will be held accountable, we recognize that systemic racism, and the violence it fuels, is still creating tragedy and inequality across our country every single day. We are all part of the work to undo this harm and reach true justice.
As you take care of yourselves and your loved ones the best you can, know that we are here in your corner, affirming the importance of our children’s future, each and every day. And that will never change.
New York City Schools Chancellor
I hope the new year is treating you and your loved ones well and that your children are settling back into their learning routines. There are a lot of great things happening in our public schools this month!
First, we are committed to continuing to improve teaching and learning during this unprecedented school year. Your feedback is key to this effort. This week, we launched our new Fall 2020 School Experience Survey to learn about our students’ and families’ experiences with remote and in-person learning this school year. Our goal is to use that feedback to improve learning for the rest of the year. Families of children in grades 3K –12, and students in grades 6–12 can go right now to Fall 2020 School Experience Survey to tell us what you think!
Second, you may be aware that we are making some important changes to our elementary, middle, and high school admissions processes to better serve all our students. These changes will help us continue to move toward a better, more equitable school system that helps every student succeed.
In the Update for Families below, you will find additional information on these new admissions policies, as well as on the School Experience Survey.
In other news, I want to share that we have delivered 450,000 free devices to students since last spring to help them with their remote learning. We have 50,000 more devices on the way. Need a device? Ask your school. You no longer need to fill out an online form; your school will help you through the process to receive one.
The free COVID-19 vaccine is also in the news, and you probably wonder when and where you can get yours. New Yorkers age 65 or older and certain frontline essential workers, including school and childcare staff, are now eligible to get the vaccine. Eligible New Yorkers can reserve their appointment by calling (877) VAX-4NYC or by visiting nyc.gov/VaccineFinder(Open external link). You can also access up-to-date information about who is eligible anytime at nyc.gov/vaccinecommandcenter(Open external link). COVID-19 vaccines are not yet being administered to children under age 16; however, we will communicate if and when children under age 16 are eligible to receive it.
Thank you again for partnering with us to ensure that all our students receive the best education possible in the greatest city in the world.
We want to know about your experience with remote and in-person learning during the current school year. Now through February 5, please share your opinions via the survey by visiting Fall 2020 School Experience Survey .
The survey collects feedback from families, students, and teachers about remote learning, communication, technology use, and health, safety, and instruction for those students and teachers who attended school or worked in person at any point this school year. Your feedback will help us understand student needs and improve remote and in-person learning for the rest of the school year.
The survey is open to families and teachers of students in grades 3-K through 12, and students in grades 6–12. The survey is available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. All feedback provided is anonymous and confidential.
Anyone who cannot complete the survey online can call 311 to find support to complete the survey by phone. The survey closes on Friday, February 5, and we want to hear from you!
Middle school applications opened January 14 and high school applications opened January 20. This year we’ve made some changes to better support our students’ learning journeys and to ensure a fairer process for all our public school families.
Students in their final year of elementary school can now apply to middle school! The deadline to apply is February 9. As the DOE shared in December, middle schools that formerly evaluated (“screened”) applicants for admissions will not use academic records, auditions, or other screens or assessments to evaluate or admit students this year. This pause on screening will be in effect for all 70,000 fifth graders entering middle school this fall.
We decided to pause on middle school screens this year because the measures our screened schools previously used to make admissions decisions were no longer available due to the pandemic. In addition, the COVID-19 health crisis has had a disproportionate impact on our communities of color, immigrant families, and other traditionally underserved communities. Pausing on screens for admissions this year will help create more inclusive learning environments and more opportunities for all our City’s students.
To learn more about middle school admissions, please visit Middle School Enrollment.
Now that the high school application is open, you will be able to apply online at MySchools.nyc(Open external link) or through your school counselor. The deadline to apply is February 23.
Also, if you have not done so yet, you can still register for Specialized High Schools admissions—learn how at Specialized High Schools.
As part of a larger effort to make the high school admissions process simpler and more equitable for families, geographic (location-based) admissions priorities for high schools will be phased out over the next two years. This means that, after next year, the location of a student’s home cannot alone determine their chances of getting into a certain high school.
Interested in arts programs? Join us at any of these events to learn about audition requirements for each discipline, the audition process for this year, and how to submit your audition online. This is also a chance to meet representatives from NYC’s audition schools, including LaGuardia High School. Please note that schools from different boroughs will join and present on different dates. At the end of the event, school and DOE staff will answer your questions.
To learn more about high school admissions generally, visit High School Enrollment.
Last week, we announced that this will be the last year New York City administers the current Gifted & Talented (G&T) test to four-year-olds. We believe there is a better way to serve our young learners.
Students currently in Gifted & Talented programs, including those entering programs this fall, will be able to complete their elementary school program. Information on this year’s test will be posted in the coming weeks on the DOE website and shared with school communities.
T H E C I T Y O F N E W Y O R K
April 11, 2020
Dear Families: Less than one month ago, we came together and began transforming the largest school system in the nation. The battle against COVID-19 left us no choice but to close school buildings to students and staff, transition to remote teaching and learning from home, and adjust to distancing from each other to remain safe.
Now, we face another painful decision. After consulting with public health experts about the ongoing trajectory of the virus, and with educators about the potential for continued disruption for the remainder of the year, we have decided that New York City school buildings will not reopen during the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers and students will finish the school year in remote learning. We will continue to operate our 400+ school-based Meal Hubs, which serve three free meals a day to any New Yorker who needs them, and we will continue to ensure child care for the children of essential workers.
This is a painful but necessary decision for two reasons. First, public health experts have determined that community transmission of COVID-19 will be widespread well into the end of the school year. Even at low-level transmission, we’d have new cases, which would be extremely difficult to contain school-toschool. We believe there simply wouldn’t be enough time to bring our students back.
Second, we, as parents, know how important it is to have some sense of predictability in order to effectively plan for your family. This crisis is hitting all of us very hard. But we are hopeful that this sense of certainty will allow for more stability and the ability to better plan for our work and home lives.
We know this will have an immense impact on the 1.1 million students and 150,000 staff who make up our New York City public schools. But we are inspired by the extraordinary ways everyone in our school communities has risen to this challenge. Every day, we see how you – students, families, and the dedicated staff serving and supporting our public schools – are going above and beyond to connect in the face of this crisis, all in service of making sure learning continues. We also know that you’ll need support to continue this tremendous undertaking. That’s why we’re making the following commitments to you as we extend the closure of our school buildings until the end of the school year:
1. Every student who has requested an internet-enabled device will have one by the end of April. No student will go without the tools they need for learning. We have already delivered tens of thousands of devices to our most vulnerable students, including those in shelter and temporary housing. We are committed to closing the remainder of the digital divide for each of our kids. If you still need a device, please fill out the Remote Learning Device Request Form at schools.nyc.gov, or call 311.
2. We will make sure that parents can ask and get answers to their questions about remote learning. We know you need someone to turn to who will answer any question you have about education during this time—from social-emotional support to academic progress to graduation requirements. Your school is always ready and willing to support you, and we will also make sure that additional support is available as we continue in our remote environment. This means increasing hours and staffing of our parent hotlines so you can get the answers you need. Call 311 to be directed to the right DOE support.
3. We’ll continue to invest in instructional resources, enrichment programs, and student supports for your families to engage in learning at home. Our students need and deserve rich, deep programming and remote learning opportunities as we go further into the school year, and we will continue to provide them. This includes learning resources provided by your teachers and schools, but it also includes enriching and fun materials from the world-class cultural institutions, libraries, museums, parks, and more right here in New York City.
4. We will ensure every high school senior is supported towards graduation. We’ll provide 1:1 counseling support to every senior, working closely with schools and families to understand if students are on track—and if not, provide opportunities to help them get there. Guidance counselors from every high school will reach out to every senior to make sure they are on a path to graduate.
5. We will reopen schools stronger than ever in September, ensuring the safety of our buildings and the resources in place to combat any learning loss and provide emotional support to our students, families, and educators as needed to resume learning and reconnect our communities.
Nothing about this is easy. For the last six years of this administration, public schools have been the anchor of our fight against inequality. They are how we’ve delivered increased opportunity, and we can’t overstate the loss of the concrete sense of community our schools provide. But this is about saving lives.
We are so grateful for your flexibility and patience; we know how hard every one of you has worked to support your children’s learning at home. And we will continue to make every effort to both support you and keep learning going during this unprecedented time.
We will also continue to keep you updated. As a reminder, you can visit DOE’s website anytime at schools.nyc.gov for more information and updates on our plans for the rest of the school year.
Bill de Blasio
Richard A. Carranza
New York City Department of Education
April 7, 2020
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.
1 Likewise, your support and partnership have been critical in helping our students cope, remain safe, and learneven 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
New York City Department of Education
March 30, 2020
To the Community of the J.H.S. 8 Richard S. Grossley Campus,
It is with profound sadness that I write to share my condolences on the passing of your beloved School Safety Agent Level III Sabrina Jefferson, who served your building for seven years and the NYC Department of Education since 1994.
Everyone who entered your lobby knew Ms. Jefferson well because she took great pride in making your entry space as welcoming as she possibly could, including plants, sometimes music, and her own warm greeting. She went far beyond her job description every day, teaching students how to knit and leading cheers at basketball games.
But most importantly, Ms. Jefferson cared deeply about the safety of your students and was enormously effective at nurturing a positive culture in the building. Principal Katiana Louissaint remembers, “Even when students committed infractions, she had a very gentle way of responding to support and encourage them not to make the same mistake again. That connection with students and their families really made a difference.” I know how much you loved her and how much she loved you all.
Everyone who had the privilege of knowing or working with Ms. Jefferson was touched by her energy, positivity, and compassion—and the million ways she went above and beyond for the students and families in the three schools on your campus.
A loss like this would be heartbreaking during the best of times, but it is unbearable during this time of uncertainty and anxiety. Please know that I am here for you and that my first priority is to make every effort to keep all of our students and school communities safe and healthy. We are ensuring counseling and other critical supports are available for every student, staff member, and family member in the Grossley campus community.
Again, we are profoundly saddened by Ms. Jefferson’s loss and extend our deepest condolences to her family. We are all experiencing a deep sense of confusion, uncertainty, and sadness, and it’s more important than ever to provide support to one another. We’ll be there for you through whatever means necessary during this impossibly difficult time.
Richard A. Carranza
New York City Department of Education