NYC Back2School Covid 19 001B

UPDATED on 10.29.2020

On October 26, parents were informed their final window to opt into blended learning (a mixture of in-class and remote instruction) for the 2020–2021 school year will be November 2–15. This announcement was made by Mayor de Blasio and Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza. This is an alteration in the original message given to parents at the beginning of the school year when they were told the blended learning option would be offered quarterly. Carranza mentioned this change is for stability sake.

However, the decision to offer only one chance to opt into blended learning instead of the originally promised several, and to only give parents a week’s notice before the two-week enrollment period has had a destabilizing effect seen by the response on social media.

At present enrollment for blended learning is at 46%, where as the initial sign-up before the school year showed over 70% enrolled in blended learning. Granted blended learning was the default option.

Parents can still opt out of blended learning to choose 100% remote learning at any time.

What follows is the article previously updated on 09.18.2020, 08.26.2020, and 08.10.2020 that was originally published on 08.07.2020

On September 17, Mayor de Blasio announced that in-person learning would be delayed for most students. The new school reopening schedule is as follows.

  • Monday, September 21st:  Blended learning students in grades 3-K and Pre-K, as well as all grades in District 75
  • Tuesday, September 29th: Blended learning students enrolled in K-5 and K-8 schools
  • Thursday, October 1st: Blended learning students enrolled in middle schools, high schools, secondary schools (schools spanning grades 6-12), and transfer schools/adult education

All students in full remote programs will continue as planned starting full-day instruction on Monday, September 21. As students begin in-person learning according to the above timeline, they will do so according to the blended learning schedules their schools have provided them (e.g., coming in person on Tuesday and Wednesday).

Originally in-person learning was scheduled to begin on September 21, as per the Mayor’s announcement on September 1.

Back to School is a phrase that recently acquired an infelicitous ring to it as COVID-19 has established a new reality where there is no going “back” for most things. Going forward, parents of school-age children had a big decision to make by August 7; they were asked to inform the Dept. of Education (DOE) if they would opt for 100% remote learning. Many parents are communicating that there are still too many unanswered questions concerning the upcoming school year and this impedes their choice. Having to make choices that could directly impact their children’s health and education with insufficient information is increasing parent anxiety. If no form was submitted by August 7, the default selection is for blended learning.

If a parent chooses 100% remote and wishes to switch to blended learning there will be opportunities to opt into blended learning only on selected dates throughout the year.  If a parent who selected blended learning wishes to switch to 100% remote they only need to fill out this form. This means parents can select 100% remote anytime.  The August 7th deadline was to aid the DOE in their planning for blended learning by estimating the number of students who would be served by that choice.

New York City Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza communicated the August 7th deadline in his August 3rd message to families and published a new message on August 6. In the August 3rd message Carranza stated, “All schools are preparing for blended learning, during which students learn in-person in school buildings for part of the week, and continue learning remotely from home on the other days. However, any family can choose 100% remote learning for any reason. If your preference is 100% remote learning, we ask that you let us know by this Friday, August 7, so that schools have enough time to plan. Please fill out a short web form, or call 311.”

Community Education Council District 14 (CEC 14) has been a sounding board for parents’ questions about school reopening. CEC 14 District Field Support Liaison Elsa Nunez says, “Superintendent Winnicki meets bi-weekly with CEC 14 to discuss DOE re-opening plans and any other community concerns regarding District 14 schools.  We also scheduled a meeting with CEC 14 and PTA presidents to plan parent forums on school reopening. We will continue collaborating with parent leaders to plan additional parent information sessions.”

In a statement from CEC 14 Superintendent Alicja Winnicki, she states, “I want to reassure our community that District 14 Principals have been meeting with their School Leadership Teams and are conducting family town halls to consult reopening models and to provide the most current information to all parents.  Parents have a lot of concerns and questions about reopening and we are making every effort to listen to them and to reassure them that safety and health of all children, staff members and families are our priority in the decision making.  This is what is guiding the Chancellor and us in reopening plans.” She also invited parents and community members to send inquiries to this email:

In family forums held on August 4th and 5th for those in District 14, parents communicated the need for more information concerning the COVID-19 changes for the upcoming school year especially about: isolation rooms, sanitizing/cleaning schedules, air filtration, teacher office hours, the blended learning schedule, among others. A parent expressed their concern over the potential difficulty in juggling blended learning and remote learning children in a multiple child household — how do you drop one child off at school and be back home in time for those learning remotely? Another wondered how remote learning days will work in households where the parents have to leave the home for work? Another asked for a more details about the remote instruction format in order to be able to make an educated decision between 100% remote or blended learning. Susan Anderson, Town Square executive director has started a petition to communicate the need for improved online instruction as this will be part of both blended learning and remote learning. Greenline will soon publish a piece on student struggles with online learning experienced this past spring.

There will be additional family info sessions by district and citywide. One Two citywide sessions in English is are scheduled for August 12 and August 27, register here. CEC Distric 14 is finalizing plans for a forum for next week for Polish speaking families and are aiming for another parent forum during the third week of August. The family info session in Spanish is scheduled for September 1, 2020. An info session titled: “Returning to School: the Latest Guidance from Heath Experts” is scheduled for September 2, 2020. You can register for all the info sessions here.

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to reopen NYC schools depends on keeping a COVID-19 positivity rate of 3% or under (NY State set a school reopening threshold of 5% or lower daily COVID-19 infection rate over a two-week period. According to this chart on August 2 NYC reached 1.8% positivity, and since that date NYC has not exceeded a 3% positivity rate after June 7.

The mayor and DOE chancellor have offered a framework of guidance in their reopening plan. The schools are stocking up on cleaning and safety supplies such as MERV 13 filters. Other implementations are: physical distancing, required facial coverings, nightly disinfecting, cleaning throughout the day, and an isolation room for COVID symptomatic students that would be watched over by a dedicated staff member or health professional. There is a plan in place for determining when to quarantine a classroom or the entire school. For more details.

Teachers are also voicing concerns. Many communicate how they miss the classroom, but they want the classroom to be a safe place for all.

Update on 08.10.2020 consisted of updating verb tense regarding the August 7 deadline. Also to make it more clear that parents may select 100% remote anytime, now or during the school year. The purpose of the deadline was for setting a baseline number of students who would be participating in blended learning to help the schools better prepare: those not opting into 100% remote default into blended learning.

Update on 08.26.2020, added dates and information to two more info sessions.

Update on 09.18.2020 informed on the delay of schools opening for in-school lessons, at the beginning of the article.

Update on 10.29.20 informed on the new November deadline to opt into blended learning — which now will be the only time to choose this.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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