DOE to Host Virtual Conference on Reopening NYC Schools

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STATEN ISLAND, NY — As part of its ongoing effort toward the full reopening of public schools, the Department of Education (DOE) will host a virtual conference for Staten Island on Monday, May 17, from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m, with conferences for the other four boroughs to follow.

The online information session, titled “Conversation with Chancellor Porter in Your Borough,” will provide parents with an opportunity to join Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter in a virtual conversation, tackling the city’s plan to reopen schools. Concerned families can also ask questions, provide feedback, and share experiences on the students’ transitioning from what is now mostly part-time in-person learning to full-time in-person instruction.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Porter as the new schools’ Chancellor of the nation’s largest education system after former chancellor Richard Carranza abruptly announced his resignation in February. In addition to tackling thorny issues of persistent school segregation, de Blasio and Porter has since made reopening classrooms a central plank of the pandemic recovery plan of NYC schools

A major milestone in the city’s efforts to resume in-person instruction was announced on March 22 when 488 public high schools reopened across the five boroughs. However, only 55,000 out of a total population of 282,000 high school students signed up for in-person classes. The remaining students chose to receive instruction remotely, largely because of lingering concerns about the health risks of the coronavirus pandemic and its new variants.

Mayor de Blasio has recently advocated for a full return to in-person classes and expressed confidence toward observing the students’ safety despite the high recorded COVID cases and death rate in the city, saying that New York public high schools are “the safest place to be.”

“We test every school every week. And we have seen an extraordinarily low incidence of COVID. And the reason is we create a gold standard,” de Blasio said in a radio interview, referring to the new school closure guidelines that replaced the two-case rule.

“We said, what are the healthiest practices in schools? We said every child will wear a mask. There’ll be constant cleaning, better ventilation, social distancing. We put all these pieces together, plus weekly testing in every school.” he added.

For Chancellor Porter, safely bringing more students back to in-person learning will require education policymakers to continuously rely on professional expertise and insider knowledge of medical experts.

“My hope and my goal is to get all of our students, all of our teachers, and all of our staff back in-person full-time, but in New York City, as we have done through this entire pandemic, we are going to continue to follow the science,” Porter said in a short interview on Good Morning, America.

In a separate press interview, Porter emphasized the importance of fostering trust between families and the Education Department that the safety of students is ensured upon returning to school buildings by involving parents in the conversation of reopening schools, which is the main goal of the upcoming virtual conference.

“I want to begin those conversations, with our union partners, with our community partners, and most importantly, with our families and our students,” she stated. “I think that’s where we start. We start with how people are feeling about it, and we build up trust, by having conversations, and we develop a plan that makes sense for everyone.” she further noted. 

The virtual discussion is also expected to cover a number of topics apart from school reopening for the 2021-2022 school year, such as health and safety, special education, and social-emotional learning. Spanish and Mandarin interpretation will be available.

Those who wish to join the virtual conference may register through https://learndoe.org/chancellor/

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