Thresholds for Opening and Closing Schools
Threshold for Reopening Schools
In order for schools to reopen, New York City must meet the following:
- The percent of positive tests in New York City is less than 3% using a 7-day rolling average. If we cross this threshold, we will not reopen.
Threshold for Closing Schools
Schools will need to close if New York City meets the following:
- The percent of positive tests in New York City is equal to or greater than 3% using a 7-day rolling average. If we cross this threshold, schools will close.
Building Preparations Prior to Schools Reopening
- At the start of the school year, the DOE will provide all schools with necessary supplies to help protect students and staff from COVID-19, including hand sanitizer, soap, disinfectants, and thermometers.
- DOE will make the maximum number of sinks available for handwashing.
- DOE will make improvements to HVAC systems, as well as air conditioning repairs, to improve air circulation, as well as replacing regular air filters with higher efficiency types.
- DOE will increase cleaning throughout the school day, with special attention to high-touch areas.
Students can’t learn if they aren’t nourished. Grab-and-go meals will be available for breakfast and lunch each day, though students will also be permitted to bring their own lunch if preferred. Doing so will allow for more flexibility so students and physical distancing can be maintained during lunch time, a time when many students usually gather in one location.
- Lunch will be in classrooms to minimize interaction between groups of students.
- If the cafeteria must be used, schools should maintain appropriate physical distancing.
- Grab-and-go meals will be delivered to students in 3K to K classrooms, and pickup points within the school will be designated for grades 1-12.
Building Safety Measures
Maintaining Healthy Environments
Keeping students and staff safe requires that the physical environment in which our staff works and our students learn must be modified to meet current health and safety needs.
Changes to School Buildings
- Schools will be allowed, and in some cases directed, to modify or reconfigure spaces to ensure compliance with physical distancing rules. Additional guidance on the process for space modifications will be shared later this summer.
- All schools will have a designated Isolation Room, as well as staff to supervise that space.
- School Based Health Centers (SBHC) may provide supplemental care, if this is a viable option.
Ventilation in School Buildings
The New York City Department of Education is following the guidance laid out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Council of Great City Schools, Department of Health & Mental Health (DOHMH), City University of New York (CUNY), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to our city and federal public health experts, a room is safe when air is able to flow in and out—whether through natural or mechanical means. This flow can be achieved either through use of an HVAC, an open window, or air handlers.
All rooms must have adequate ventilation to be used for the school year.
Following public health guidance, we are assessing and making repairs on buildings designed and built to permit air flow through windows. We expect repairs to be completed by the opening of school and rooms without adequate ventilation will not be occupied by students or staff.
Ventilation in school buildings is provided by a combination of the following systems:
- supply and exhaust fans
- windows and exhaust fans
- HVAC Systems: rooftop units, air handling units, and dedicated outside systems in newer buildings, such as Univents
These systems are installed to meet the Building Code Requirements at the time of design and construction.
- Buildings that have supply and exhaust fans do not need operable windows. Windows can be used for additional air dilution and supplemental ventilation, or if the mechanical system failed.
- Buildings that have operable windows and exhaust fans meet the ventilation requirements.
- Mechanical ventilation can be with both supply and exhaust fans, or only exhaust fans and the use of windows for make-up air.
- Mechanical ventilation is provided by HVAC Units that supply fresh air into inner core rooms of buildings that do not have windows. Outside air dampers should be opened (either manually or using the Building Management System) to between 75%-100% to maximize outside air supply and still maintain building comfort levels.
All DOE school buildings were surveyed by Division of School Facilities (DSF) staff this summer to assess the state of building ventilation and they are currently performing repairs in conjunction with the School Construction Authority. These repairs include fixing windows, repairing HVAC systems, and replacing air filters in buildings with central HVAC systems.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Schools will need to implement enhanced cleaning and disinfection of surfaces to ensure the health and safety of staff and students. Throughout the school year, the DOE will continue the rigorous practices used to prepare buildings for reopening, including:
- Providing adequate cleaning and disinfection supplies or plan to procure those supplies.
- Requiring deep cleanings to be completed on a nightly basis, including with the use of electrostatic sprayers.
- Improving HVAC systems to ensure proper ventilation.
- Setting-up enhanced cleaning in classrooms, bathrooms, and for high touch areas such as doorknobs and shared equipment such as laptops.
- Providing teachers with cleaning supplies for classrooms.
Screening and Entry/Dismissal Protocols
In order to minimize the number of individuals who come in contact with each other, and in order to identify potentially sick students and staff to the greatest extent possible, schools will be required to follow all applicable health guidance and to develop entry and dismissal protocols consistent with the latest health guidance, including:
- Staying up-to-date on guidance on symptom checks, which continues to evolve.
- Screening staff, students, and visitors daily on arrival for symptoms.
- Creating guidelines for health screenings of staff who report to work outside of morning arrival.
- Managing student drop off and pick up outside the school building to minimize the number of external visitors.
- It is strongly recommended that nonessential visitors do not enter the school building. Schools should limit the frequency and duration of other visitors.
We will also be asking for feedback from principals, and monitoring best practices for building entry and exit protocols.
Similarly, schools must redesign building movement protocols to keep people in cohorts and allow for physical distancing consistently. In particular, schools are being required, to the extent feasible, to:
- Redesign movement protocols within a building to minimize congestion
- Designate one-way direction stairwells and single file routes
- Address elevator usage policies
- Requiring students to stay on campus during lunch periods
Signage may be provided to support appropriate movement protocols.
Using Staff to Maintain a Healthy Environment
With health and safety as a priority, it will be important to have staff dedicated to carry out enhanced health operations. Schools should:
- Use the Building Response Team structure to develop a school-based COVID-19 team.
- Deploy adequate staff to support with daily enhanced health protocols.
Testing and Tracing
We must use every effort to prevent the spread of infection in schools if a student or staff member is feeling sick or has a confirmed case of COVID-19. This section explains the protocols in place to achieve this. The most fundamental guidance remains that any student or staff member should stay home if they are not feeling well.
The City will continue to closely monitor health conditions, and if community transmission begins to rise across the boroughs, the decision to close all schools may be included in the mitigation effort.
In the interest of the health and safety of our entire city, DOHMH recommends that all New Yorkers get tested, whether or not you have symptoms or are at increased risk.
All staff members will be asked to take a COVID-19 test in the days before the first day of school. School staff will have priority access for testing at 34 city-run testing locationswith tests provided free of charge and with expedited results. This testing is also available for families citywide.
If Someone in the School Community Feels Sick
If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home and, if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, are asked to get tested. If a student begins experiencing symptoms in school, they will be isolated and monitored by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their family. Staff members who become symptomatic at school are asked to immediately leave the building.
Whether symptoms begin at home or in school, there will be a clear flow of information to facilitate fast action and prevent spread. A positive confirmed case will trigger an investigation by NYC Test + Trace and DOHMH to determine close contacts within the school. Schools will communicate to all families and students at school once a case is laboratory confirmed.
The DOE is working in tight coordination with DOHMH and the Test + Trace Corps to identify, isolate, and prevent spread of COVID-19. In the event that there is a laboratory- confirmed case in a school, all students and teachers in that class are assumed close contacts and will be instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days since their last exposure to that case.
Additionally, the DOHMH and Test + Trace Corps will begin an investigation into the risk of exposure to the school community and work with the DOE to issue clear guidance and decisions for next steps based on the outcome.
These protocols center the health of our students and staff at the very core of this school year, while pursuing the resumption of in-person learning and educational services. The City will continue to closely monitor health conditions, and if community transmission begins to rise across the boroughs, a decision may be made to close all schools and switch to full-time remote learning.
For all scenarios outlined below, all post-investigation decisions on classroom quarantines or whether full school closure is required will be dependent on the specific facts of each investigation.
|Conclusion of Investigation||During Investigation||Post Investigation|
|A. 1 confirmed case ||Close Classroom||Classroom remains closed for 14 days; students and staff in close contact with positive case self-quarantine for 14 days.|
|B. At least 2 cases linked together in school, same classroom||Close Classroom||Classroom remains closed for 14 days; students and staff in close contact with positive cases self-quarantine for 14 days|
|C. At least 2 cases linked together in school, different classrooms||Close school||Classrooms of each case remain closed and quarantined, additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school (e.g., the locker room);|
|D. At least 2 cases linked together by circumstances outside of school (i.e., acquired infection by different setting and source)||Close school||School opens post investigation, classrooms remain closed for 14 days|
|E. At least 2 cases not linked but exposure confirmed for each one outside of school setting||Close school||School opens post investigation, classrooms remain closed for 14 days|
|F. Link unable to be determined||Close school||Close school for 14 days|
Whenever a student is quarantining at home, the expectation is that they continue engaging with learning remotely if they are feeling well enough. If a school is closed, the principal will communicate by 6pm on the night before about the status of opening the next morning, based on the status of the investigation. We will not reopen a school building without confirmation from public health experts that it is safe.
Face coverings will be required inside school buildings. Exceptions will be developmentally- and age-appropriate, consistent with guidance of health agencies, and paired with increased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff. NYCDOE is procuring and distributing appropriate PPE for students and staff to use when inside school buildings.