A focus on health and safety as the nation’s largest school district opens
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David C. Banks started their first weekday as leaders of the nation’s largest city and school district by emphasizing the Department of Education’s (DOE) Stay Safe and Stay Open safety measures while visiting Concourse Village Elementary School and P17X, a District 75 school, in the Bronx. They spoke to educators, students and families about the City’s expansive health and safety measures put in place to keep school communities safe and young people learning in-person. The Chancellor and Mayor stressed that safe in-person learning is critical to our most vulnerable students who were significantly impacted by the isolation this pandemic caused, like the students with disabilities that P17X serves.
“Our young people rely on our public schools as lifelines every single day and we owe it to them to be fully open,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “As someone who was born, raised, and graduated from NYC public schools I know how important they are to families across the city and we will not deviate from our commitment to keeping them safely open.”
“I am honored to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the incredible educators, school leaders, and support staff who are showing up every day during this pandemic for their students,” said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “From increased testing to PPE, we are making sure that our schools are safe, and we work closely with our labor partners, parents, and community members to ensure our schools stay safely open.”
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of students and staff as the city continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic while safely ensuring schools stay open.
The cornerstone of the Department’s ‘Stay Safe and Stay Open’ plan is the massive expansion of both in-school surveillance testing and the gargantuan cross-agency effort to deliver 1.5 million test kits to every single school across the City during the holiday break. Every staff member will be provided with two rapid tests every week in January, and every student and staff member who is in a classroom with a positive case will be given two at-home rapid tests to ensure that positive cases are quickly identified, isolated, and students with negative tests can continue receiving the high-quality in-person learning and social-emotional support they critically need. We will continue to deliver test kits to schools to ensure students and staff have the supplies they need.
To help support schools and administrators, the DOE has launched the COVID Command Center to immediately address and escalate any operational issues, including staffing challenges. The COVID Command Center will be staffed with District and Borough employees who will gather information, resolve urgent school and district-level issues as needed, and assist with coordinated responses to schools. There are thousands of qualified teacher and paraprofessional substitutes on-hand to assist with any potential staffing gaps and we have offered additional financial incentives to recruit additional qualified substitutes.
The nation’s largest in-school surveillance testing program is also expanding beginning today to double the number of individuals tested in each school by including both unvaccinated students and vaccinated students, as well as staff. The random in-school surveillance program continues to provide public health experts with an accurate look at the transmission of COVID-19 in schools. All families, regardless of whether their young person is vaccinated, should consent to in-school testing at https://www.schoolsaccount.nyc/ or return a signed consent form to their school.
These measures are in addition to making vaccination easily accessible and available for all, a vaccine mandate for all in-school staff members, universal indoor masking, physical distancing, routine screening testing, fully functioning ventilation systems backed up by two air purifiers in every classroom, and oversight by the Situation Room. This multi-layered approach to health and safety has kept positivity rates in schools low and has successfully limited the spread of COVID-19 in schools—making them some of the safest places for students and staff to be during the pandemic.For pictures from today’s visit to Concourse Village Elementary and P017X, please see the photos from the Mayor’s office.