This has been an eventful and challenging year on so many levels. With your efforts and contributions, our school buildings have been safe places for teaching and learning for hundreds of thousands of students over the past several weeks. To date, we have seen a COVID-19 positivity rate of only 0.19 percent out of more than 120,000 students and staff tested. This has been a reassuring sign that our schools are safe, and we are grateful for the tireless work you do to ensure this is possible.
As you are aware, the City as a whole is experiencing elevated rates of COVID-19 transmission. As you may recall, last summer we established a threshold as a school system for closing school buildings and temporarily transitioning to fully remote learning: a 3% COVID-19 test positivity rate in New York City using a 7-day rolling average.
As of this morning, the City has now reached this threshold of test positivity citywide and, as a result, the DOE will temporarily close down all public school buildings, effective Thursday, November 19. This action, along with other city-wide measures, is a key component to address the concerning rise in COVID-19 transmission rates. This closure of buildings is temporary; we will work diligently alongside other City agencies and every New Yorker to bring this transmission rate back down and get back to in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible.
Despite this temporary closure, our important work continues: learning must go on five days per week, fully remotely for all students for a brief period of time. Our students and families are counting on all of us - whether we work at schools or in central and field-based offices - to support them as they transition to fully remote learning. To guide us, we have sent a communication to principals with information on school-based operations as we temporarily transition to fully remote learning, and school-based staff should reach out to their principals with any questions specific to their school. Our community-based early childhood programs, family child care programs, and Learning Bridges sites will remain open to continue serving children and families in-person.
While school buildings will be closed temporarily for in-person instruction, staff will be able to access their buildings. Certain staff, such as School Safety Agent(s) (SSA), Custodians, Skilled Tradespeople, and School Food employees, and others will be required to be on-site at DOE buildings. Other school-based staff members will have access to their school building to ensure that certain functions are performed during the temporary system-wide remote period, such as delivery and pick-up and distribution of devices and other learning materials. Please discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding your work location with your principal or supervisor. Further information, including guidance for specific employee groups such as substitutes and re-deployed staff, can be found on the Coronavirus Staff Update InfoHub page.
Our DOE community has been our greatest asset at this time of crisis, and we will continue to support every one of you as public health conditions continue to evolve. We know that for many of you, our staff, and our students and families, a transition to fully remote instruction – even for a brief period of time – is challenging to hear. But we’ve faced these challenges before and are prepared for any situation that comes our way.
New Yorkers have proven they are ready and willing to do the collective work to fight back this virus, our school system being an important part of that effort. We are relying on every New Yorker to do all they can in bringing our transmission rates down. This means maintaining the “Core Four” every day: wash your hands, wear a face covering, keep six feet of distance from others, and stay home if you’re feeling sick. We will closely monitor our citywide health indicators every day and keep you informed on next steps when we are able to return to in-person instruction.
Thank you for continuing to ensure our children have the best educational experience. Again, we are so grateful for your tireless efforts.