You trust us to keep your children safe in our schools—and we’re working to make sure that never changes.
For decades, New York City public schools have served as sanctuaries for millions of young New Yorkers across the five boroughs. This remains true even today, as families continue to rely on City schools to provide safe learning spaces, responsive social emotional supports, and nutritious food options that help keep their children focused on their studies and goals.
Now, with over two years of COVID-19-related disturbances behind us, we are reimagining and revitalizing how our schools keep students safe both physically and emotionally.
This year, NYC Public Schools are adjusting how we provide students with supportive and safe environments across the five boroughs by better harnessing the DOE’s extensive resources and partnerships. This updated approach helps us to provide City students with expanded in-school supports directly at the school level.
“When a parent kisses their child goodbye in the morning, they trust that their child will be both emotionally and physically safe at school,” said Chancellor David Banks earlier this month. “This administration is prioritizing the reimagining of our commitment to supporting the whole child from the day they enter our schools to the day they graduate. Our families’ biggest concerns should be on the studies of their children, which is why we are doubling down on this work to take concerns about safety out of the equation.”
Maintaining Our Students’ Physical Safety
It is absolutely essential that our students feel safe in the classroom, and that our families trust that their children will come back home from school every day, safe, sound, and more knowledgeable than before. This is especially in light of recent tragedies that have taken place across the country, which is why we have doubled down on our schools’ commitment to physical student safety in a number of ways, including:
Hiring Additional School Safety Agents (SSAs)
School Safety Agents are critical members of our school communities, and they are often the first, friendly face that greets students and families at the school door. This school year, in partnership with the New York Police Department (NYPD), approximately 200 new SSAs started working in our schools beginning Day 1 on September 8. Another 150 agents are being trained currently, and a combined 500 agents will begin training in January 2023 and May 2023.
Improved Communication Capabilities with Staff Members and Families
NYC public schools now have access to the DOE’s new Grades, Attendance, and Messaging applications, which integrates data across DOE systems and allows school leaders to communicate with staff members and City families in multiple languages regarding any updates they may have about their schools, including upcoming events, closings, and in the case of an emergency, timely updates regarding lockdowns, shelter-ins, or evacuations.
Enhanced Safety Trainings for School Leaders and Early Childhood Providers
In partnership with the NYPD’s School Safety Division and Louisiana State University, the DOE is facilitating enhanced training in emergency readiness for school principals, assistant principals, and building response team leaders, as well as early childhood providers. This includes active shooter trainings and active threat exercises which were held throughout this past summer. This is in addition to our ongoing robust emergency readiness supports, which are available to all schools and educators.
Checked Locks, Alarms, and PA Systems in School Buildings for Issues
Over the summer, the DOE’s Division of School Facilities (DSF) conducted a survey of 1,400 buildings to assess the functionality of classroom door locksets, exterior door locks, intrusion alarms, office door locksets, panic buttons, door alarms, and public address systems. DSF identified 1,300 issues across all schools, and worked to address every single one of those issues by the first day of school.
Supporting the Whole Child
When students feel emotionally safe at school, they are able to reach their full potential. As we begin the school year, we are building on years of work by students, educators, families, and advocates to create more fair and just public schools. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re hearing from students and educators that resources once held at the borough or central level must be pushed closer to schools and significantly expanded. Core to this work is the belief that when students are fully emotionally supported, we are able to keep them safe.
New Youth Support and Violence Interruption Programming in Schools
Project Pivot is a new initiative that brings community-based organizations with proven track records into 138 schools to provide school-based youth support and violence interruption programming directly to students. Schools chosen for this initiative were selected based on a combination of data points, including the number of incidents and suspensions that occurred in their buildings in recent years.
Placing Social Workers Closer to Schools
As part of a greater, DOE-wide reorganization of resources and staff members away from DOE Central offices and towards City schools, approximately 110 social workers have been added to superintendents’ teams throughout the City to support school climate work. Previously, these social workers were centrally-based out of the DOE’s Division of Early Childhood.
Maintaining Our Progress on Social-Emotional Learning
We are continuing the work started by the previous Mayoral administration concerning our schools’ use and implementation of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) materials, lessons, and strategies offered by Harmony SEL.
Supporting Restorative Justice Programming
Implementing restorative justice programming in NYC schools has resulted in a fundamental shift in school discipline—we will continue to support our schools and educators with funds and opportunities for ongoing training, partnerships with community-based organizations, and youth programming across the City.
Expanding Our Community School Options
Since 2014, NYC Community Schools have proven invaluable to thousands of City families across the five boroughs thanks to their focus on students’ all-around health and wellness as well as their academic needs. This year, we are adding 100 new Community Schools, bringing us to a total of over 400 schools citywide.
Social Workers for Every NYC Public School
We understand the importance of supporting our students and school communities through difficult times, which is why we remain committed to ensuring that all of our schools have access to social workers or school-based mental health clinics. This year, approximately 5,000 social workers and guidance counselors are providing services in City schools—an increase of 1,000 since 2014—ensuring a strong foundation of support for all our students through difficult times and beyond. We are also continuing the work of several central initiatives, such as our Single Shepherd program, which aimed at connecting vulnerable student populations with specialized social workers and guidance counselors.
Keeping the Fight Alive Against COVID-19 and Other Communicable Diseases
As our City continues to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that our students remain in classrooms and receive quality, in-person instruction alongside key supports and services. Among these supports and services include our efforts to combat the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19 and monkeypox.
In mid-August 2022, we updated our COVID-19 guidance for schools with new best practices for reducing the spread and keeping students and staff members safe. These practices are in alignment with the most recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).
Stopping Monkeypox in its Tracks
The risk of monkeypox transmission is low in our schools, including our Pre-K through 12 schools, childcare programs, and afterschool locations. In alignment with guidance from the CDC and the DOHMH, families and principals have received guidance on addressing any confirmed cases of monkeypox.
With these updates, we are working to ensure that NYC public schools remain safe for students, educators, and families this year and beyond. For more details about the DOE’s approach to school safety and student health this school year, visit our Announcements webpage.
On behalf of the NYC DOE, we wish all of our students, educators, and families a wonderful school year!