NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor David C. Banks today announced the Administration’s approach to providing every student with a supportive and safe learning environment in New York City public schools. After two years of COVID-19 related disturbances, this plan harnesses the extensive resources of our communities and our school system to provide supports directly at the school level to provide the City’s students with both emotional and physical safety.
“When a parent kisses their child goodbye in the morning, they trust that their child will be both emotionally and physically safe at school,” said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “This administration is prioritizing the reimagining of our commitment to supporting the whole child from the day they enter our schools to the day they graduate. Our families’ biggest concerns should be on the studies of their children, which is why we are doubling down on this work to take concerns about safety out of the equation.”
REIMAGINING OUR COMMITMENT TO THE PHYSICAL SAFETY OF STUDENTS
Our schools have long served as sanctuaries for our children, which is why it is essential that our students and their families feel safe in the classroom. After recent tragedies across the country, it is critical that New York City public schools double down on its commitment to physical student safety. This commitment includes:
- Hiring Additional School Safety Agents - School Safety Agents are critical members of the school community and are often the first, friendly face that greets students and families at the school door. They are vital partners in keeping our schools safe. In partnership with the NYPD, a newly graduated class of approximately 200 school safety agents will enter our schools on the first day of school. Additionally, a new class of 150 agents will begin training in September, followed by a class of 250 in January 2023 and again in May 2023.
- Increased Real-Time Family Push Communications: As announced earlier this year, beginning this school year, principals will now have access to the Grades, Attendance and Messaging platforms, which will allow schools to communicate with staff and families in multiple languages in real-time regarding updates to the school, closings, and in the case of an emergency, including providing timely updates regarding lockdowns, shelter-ins, or evacuations.
- Enhanced Safety Trainings: In collaboration with the NYPD School Safety Division and Louisiana State University, the DOE is facilitating enhanced training in emergency readiness for school principals, assistant principals, and building response team leaders, as well as early childhood providers. This includes active shooter trainings and active threat exercises which were held throughout the summer. This is in addition to our ongoing robust emergency readiness supports, which are available to all schools and educators.
- Comprehensive City-Wide Safety Assessment: This summer, the Division of School Facilities conducted a survey of 1,400 buildings to assess the functionality of classroom door locksets, exterior door locks, intrusion alarms, office door locksets, panic buttons, door alarms, and public address (PA) systems. They identified 1,300 issues across all schools and is working to address every one by the first day of school.
REIMAGINING OUR COMMITMENT TO SUPPORTING THE WHOLE CHILD
Students reach their full potential when they feel emotionally safe at school. Under this Administration, we are building on years of work by students, educators, families, and advocates to create more fair and just public schools. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard from students and educators that resources once held at the borough or central level must be pushed closer to schools and significantly expanded. Core to this work is the belief that when students are fully emotionally supported, we are able to prevent incidents.
- Project Pivot – Project Pivot is a new, innovative initiative that brings together community-based organizations with proven track records in youth support and violence interruption. Project Pivot will provide school-based programming directly to students at 138 schools – chosen based on a combination of data that includes the number of incidents and suspensions.
- Putting Resources Closer to Schools – As part of Department-wide reorganization of resources and staff away from Central and towards schools, approx. 110 social workers are being added to superintendent teams to support school climate work under the supervision of district’s Student Services Manager. Previously, these social workers were Centrally-based social workers in the Early Childhood Division.
- Continued Emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning – Maintaining the work started under the previous Administration, we are continuing to support all elementary schools in using and implementing the Social-Emotional Learning materials offered by Harmony SEL.
- Providing Restorative Justice Programing Supports – Sustaining the work that resulted in a fundamental shift in school discipline, we are continuing to support schools and educators in instituting restorative justice programming. These resources fund ongoing training, partnerships with community-based organizations, and youth programming across the city.
- Expanding Proven Community Schools – Community schools are invaluable resources for our public schools, and we are proud to expand our network of community schools by 100 this year, bringing us to a total of ~400 schools with ~70 supporting CBOs. Community schools provide services and supports for our young people in pursuit of their academic needs and their all-around health and wellness.
- Maintaining Commitment to Social Workers in Every School – Our commitment to supporting our students and school communities through difficult times and beyond is unwavering. Our school system has access to approximately 5,000 social workers and guidance counselors, an increase of 1000 since 2014. Every NYC public school has at a minimum, access to a social worker or school based mental health clinics, ensuring a strong foundation of support for all our students through difficult times and beyond. In recent years we have also kick-started several central initiatives, such as our Single Shepherd program, aimed at connecting vulnerable student populations with specialized social workers and guidance counselors.
CONTINUING TO COMBAT COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
As students continue to heal from the pandemic, it is essential that they remain in classrooms, receiving the wraparound supports that our schools provide. An essential component of our commitment to student and staff health and safety is our ongoing work combatting the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19 and Monkeypox.
- Combatting COVID-19: Our updated COVID-19 guidance, which was released in mid-August, comprises best practices for reducing the spread and keeping students and staff safe. Guidance is in alignment with that from the CDC and DOHMH. Vaccination continues to be our key out of the pandemic, and the DOE continues to urge families to have their students vaccinated and boosted.
- Combatting Monkeypox: The risk of monkeypox transmission is low at PreK through grade 12 schools, child care programs and after-school programs. In alignment with guidance from the CDC and DOHMH, families and principals have received DOE guidance on addressing any confirmed cases of monkeypox.