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EDITOR’S NOTE (3/16/2020): From March 16–April 20, 2020, NYC public school students will not report to school buildings for instruction. Please review our most recent Coronavirus update for details.


Dear Families:

The health and safety of all of our students continues to be our first priority in the wake of the evolving situation concerning the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in New York City. We are writing today with a number of important updates for all students and families, including the latest information about ways to protect your health.

There are a number of actions we have taken, and there are many things you can do to keep our communities safe. The most important action you can take is to stay home if you are sick. Please see the City’s What You Need to Know fact sheet, and read on for additional information.

Our Preparations and Protocols

School Cleaning and Hygiene

We continue to work in close partnership with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to enhance protocols in schools. These include:

  • Ensuring that all DOE school buildings have a nurse;
  • Increasing deep cleanings to two times per week, disinfecting surface areas with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-approved cleaning disinfectants;
  • Ensuring that all schools have adequate hygiene and cleaning materials so that bathrooms are continuously stocked with soap and paper towels;
  • Supplying all schools with face masks to be used if a student or staff member exhibits symptoms and requires isolation prior to transport to a doctor and/or testing; and
  • Strongly encouraging regular hand washing throughout the day, particularly before meals, and making changes as needed to ensure students have the time to wash their hands.

International Travel

  • All DOE-sponsored international travel for students and staff members for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year has been canceled.
  • This includes study abroad programs, where students are scheduled to come from other countries to stay with host families in NYC, and where DOE public school students are hosted abroad.


  • Student absences in the current school year (2019–2020) will not impact applications of fifth- and eighth-graders applying to middle or high schools for the 2020–2021 school year.
  • Student absences in the current school year will not impact applications of current fourth- and seventh-graders applying for middle or high school for the 2021–2022 school year.

What if a Student Feels Sick in School?

  • In the event a student is sick, complaining of fever, cough, or shortness of breath, that child should be taken to the school nurse;
  • The nurse will ask the student to wear a face mask, call for parental pick up, and recommend calling a medical provider to receive further instructions; and
  • Any student with respiratory symptoms and fever should wait in a supervised setting with a closed door, away from other students.

What if There is a Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in my School?

  • In the event that DOHMH determines that there is a need for investigation, closure, or other action at a school, you will immediately be notified.
  • We urge you to ignore any rumor you might hear from others separate and apart from official communication from DOHMH, DOE, and your school.

We are working with the State to provide more information on school closure guidance to share in the near future.

Large Gatherings

Right now, the City has not advised the cancellation of large events or public gatherings, but is monitoring development and will adjust as needed.

  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • If you have chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, a compromised immune system, chronic lung disease, and/or cancer, avoid unnecessary gatherings and events.
Three-year-old learning to wash hands

It is important for all New Yorkers to practice general viral prevention measures, including washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on a regular basis. (Photo Credit: Adee Pee, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license)

What YOU Can Do

Reduce Overcrowding

  • Walk or bike to work, if possible.
  • If the train is too packed, wait for the next one.
  • The City is advising private employers to consider telecommuting where appropriate.
  • Additionally, the City is asking private employers to stagger work hours. For example, instead of 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., change some work hours to 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. or 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. to help reduce overcrowding.

Feeling Sick?

  • Stay home and call your doctor if you have symptoms like including but not limited to coughing, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat.
  • If you do not feel better in 24-48 hours, seek care from your doctor.
  • Avoid going out public. Do not go to school or work until you have been fever-free at least 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing drugs like Tylenol or ibuprofen.
  • If you need help getting medical care, call 311.
  • NYC will provide care regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.

Special Guidance for Vulnerable New Yorkers

  • The City is advising those with chronic lung disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or a compromised immune system to avoid unnecessary events and gatherings.
  • If you have family or friends who have one of these conditions, do not visit them if you feel sick.

If You Have Traveled Recently

Anyone who has traveled to Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan, or China and returned on or after March 4, 2020, must stay home from work or school for 14 days after their last day in that country and minimize contact with other people.

  • If returning travelers from affected countries develop fever, cough, or trouble breathing, they should call their medical provider and tell them about their symptoms and history of travel.
  • For those self-monitoring at home, DOHMH has developed a supporting doctor’s note and FAQ available at under “Returning Travelers.”

Students and families who returned from the affected countries before March 4, 2020, should monitor their health; if they develop any symptoms, they should stay home and call their medical provider. Please monitor for updates on affected countries.

Continue to practice general viral infection prevention measures including:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.
  • Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
  • Do not shake hands. Instead wave or elbow bump.
  • Monitor your health more closely than usual for cold or flu symptoms.
Girl getting her blood pressure checked by a physician

It’s never too late to get your flu shot.

How to Stay Informed and Fight Bias

To get regular updates on the latest developments regarding coronavirus in New York City, text “COVID” to 692-692. You will receive regular SMS texts with the latest news and developments.

Please also read DOHMH’s Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet for more information, and visit at any time for important updates, including ways to fight stigma and bias around this issue.

It’s important we come together as a city and support one another as neighbors and New Yorkers during this time. COVID-19 is not more likely found in any one race or nationality, and we must each model inclusion and actively work to combat bias in our workplaces and communities. 

The health and safety of our students continues to be our chief priority, and we will continue to follow all guidance and take all appropriate measures accordingly, and stay in consistent communication with our families.


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Richard A. Carranza
NYC Department of Education

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Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of a million students across 1,800+ schools

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NYC Department of Education, 2019