EDITOR’S NOTE (9/21/21): This post has been updated to reflect important changes to NYC schools’ quarantine and testing protocols that will take effect beginning on 9/27/21.
Can you believe it? The first day of school is almost here!
On Monday, September 13, New York City public schools will open their doors to all students across the five boroughs, and like many of you, we are excited about getting everyone back into their classrooms for face-to-face learning with dedicated and caring educators.
Given that we are all still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know many of you have questions about the health and safety precautions being used at City schools this year. Below, you’ll find an overview of the various steps City schools are taking to help keep students and staff members healthy and safe this school year. Read on to learn more, and check out our official Health and Safety In Our Schools page for further details.
COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for DOE Staff Members
We know that the best way to protect you and your family from COVID-19 is to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and now with the rapid spread of the delta variant of the virus, it is more important than ever to get vaccinated. The delta variant is more contagious, infecting more young people than previous strains, and it may be more likely to cause severe illness and to reinfect someone who already had COVID-19.
This is why the DOE is requiring all DOE employees, including school-based staff members, to be vaccinated. DOE employees will be required to provide proof that they have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by September 27, 2021. This requirement will go a long way to help ensure the overall safety of the City’s public schools, facilities, and classrooms.
Vaccination for Children Aged 12 and Up
To further help keep schools safe, the DOE and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) strongly encourage all New Yorkers aged 12 and up to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible. Many sites now have walk-in appointments, making it easier for any New Yorker to obtain the ultimate protection currently available for COVID-19. Plus, for a limited time, New Yorkers can get giveaways for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, including free tickets, complimentary memberships, or even $100 pre-paid debit cards.
And thanks to a partnership between the DOE and DOHMH, all New Yorkers aged 12 and up can get free COVID-19 vaccines at select schools across the City. You can simply walk in by yourself or with any student, friend, or family member who needs a vaccine (minors will need parental consent) and get your “jab” for free—no health insurance or proof of citizenship will be required.
To find a vaccine site near you, visit vaccinefinder.nyc.gov, or call 877-VAX-4-NYC (877-829-4692) for help making an appointment at a City-run vaccination site.
Health and Safety Practices at NYC Schools
Every day, DOE students and staff members will be required to take multiple measures to ensure the continued safety of school buildings and classrooms. This multi-layered prevention strategy will help to minimize the effects of COVID-19 on all City schools and classrooms:
- Each day, prior to entering school buildings, every student and staff member must complete a Health Screening Form.
- All students and staff members must wear face coverings while on school property—indoors and outdoors—and when riding on school buses, regardless of vaccination status (unless they have a medical exemption).
- All school staff members must show proof of vaccination. We are also encouraging all families to record their student’s vaccination status on the DOE’s COVID-19 Vaccination Portal.
- Beginning September 27, random weekly COVID-19 testing will take place in all NYC public schools this school year. Every school will randomly test 10% of their unvaccinated students who have submitted consent for testing. Students and staff members who are fully vaccinated are not required to be tested.
- Every school will have a supply of face masks on hand for children and adults, and hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom.
- City learning spaces will continue to provide good ventilation to students and staff members. Every classroom across the City has two air purifiers, and every single classroom has been inspected, updated, and repaired as needed. If a room does not have adequate ventilation, it will not be used.
- “High touch” areas, like doorknobs and water fountains will be cleaned multiple times throughout the day, and each classroom will be deep cleaned and disinfected daily using electrostatic technology.
- Physical distancing of at least 3 feet will be maintained in City schools where possible.
What Happens if There’s a Positive COVID-19 Case in a School?
We know how important it is to keep our schools and classrooms open for learning, which is why we have done everything we can to make sure City classrooms are equipped to be safe learning environments. While these combined measures will mean fewer disruptions in your child’s education, there may be times when your child will be asked to quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19.
Here’s a summary of our quarantine protocols for all students: (Ed. Note: modified on 9/21 in response to updated CDC guidance)
- In the event of a positive case in a classroom, only students who are considered “close contacts” under CDC guidelines will have to quarantine. Unvaccinated students who are masked and at least three feet distanced from a student who tests positive are not considered close contacts under CDC guidelines.
- Students who are showing symptoms will be directed to quarantine for 10 days. These students will have access to remote learning while quarantining.
Schools will be closed only when it is determined by DOHMH that there is widespread transmission in affected schools. With the health and safety measures outlined above in place, we expect that school closures will be limited this school year.
With the combination of these mandates and safety practices, we hope to provide all New York City public school students with a return to in-person learning that will put them back on track for future success. For more information about our return to schools this fall, check out the DOE’s official Safe and Healthy Learning for All page.
We can’t wait to see you on the first day of school on Monday, September 13!
Banner photo by RODNAE Productions. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pexels.
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