STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — New York City students across the five boroughs will return to public schools on Thursday for the first day of the 2022-2023 academic year without many of the strict health and safety measures that have been in place the last two years due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
It will mark the first time in two years that students will see their classmates, teachers, and other school staff without a face mask requirement. There will be no social distancing or in-school random PCR testing, and classrooms won’t fully or partially close due to coronavirus cases.
At-home COVID-19 rapid tests will still be distributed and some vaccination requirements are still in place. Cleaning protocols and the Building Response Teams in schools will also be utilized going forward. All classrooms and common areas, like auditoriums and gyms, will have hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. High-touch areas, like doorknobs and water fountains, will be cleaned multiple times a day.
Every classroom will have at least two air purifiers. Cafeterias in bigger schools will be provided with large air units for added protection and window-based exhaust fans to provide additional air circulation.
Schools will be closed only when it is determined by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) that there is widespread transmission in the school, according to the city Department of Education (DOE). But with health and safety measures in place, the city expects that school closures will be limited.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), explained during a recent interview with the Advance/SILive.com, that this school year is beginning with the “next phase of the new normal.”
“I know that the children, the parents and the teachers deserve to go into this year with certain things settled — and as always, the schools, the parents, the teachers and community working together,” said Mulgrew. “They’ll do what they always do, which is take care of those kids.”
SOME VACCINE REQUIREMENTS STILL IN PLACE
There are also some vaccine requirements still in place in public schools. According to the DOE, the coronavirus vaccine is still required for all visitors entering school buildings, all DOE employees, other individuals who work in DOE buildings, and those participating in extracurricular activities deemed high-risk, including certain PSAL sports.
Sports considered high-risk include football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse, stunt and rugby. Additionally, a COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to students participating in high-risk after-school extracurricular activities like chorus, musical theater, dance/dance team, band/orchestra (with concern for woodwinds), marching band and cheerleading/step team/flag team.
Borough President Vito J. Fossella and other Staten Island elected officials sent a letter last week to DOE Chancellor David Banks and DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan requesting the agencies reconsider the COVID-19 guidance ahead of the new school year.
The officials wrote in the letter that the vaccine requirements should be reconsidered for unvaccinated students who wish to participate in those activities, as well as the rules for parents — citing how important parent involvement is, especially after two years of interrupted school sessions due to the pandemic.
“While well-intentioned and noble, some of the decisions in the past have negatively affected many children,” the letter read. “Evidence suggests that cases of mental illness in school-aged children are on the rise and low-test scores are sadly becoming the norm. We urge you to reconsider and reverse the policies regarding unvaccinated parents and children.”
According to the DOHMH, many high-risk extracurricular activities are performed indoors, are strenuous, and entail closer contact than classroom activities.
“We thank the authors of this letter for raising these important issues with us and we look forward to continuing our dialogue with them in the days ahead,” said Patrick Gallahue, spokesperson for DOHMH. “We fully recognize the toll that COVID has taken on New Yorkers’ mental health, especially youth. We have made services for young people a high priority and aim to do even more.”
Gallahue continued: “We must add, however, that vaccination remains the single best protection against severe illness caused by COVID-19. Every action we’ve taken has been directed at preventing any more suffering from this terrible virus. We want to keep our children safe in class, in their school communities, and safe from COVID.”
Some students will enter a completely new school building this month.
The new Evelyn King Campus in Stapleton will house Waverly Academy for Empowered Learners (WAELS) and The Young Women’s Leadership School (TYWLS), while also providing seats to students in District 75.
Amenities in the building include: a computer classroom; art classrooms; gymnasium; playground; full kitchen complex; library; guidance and medical suites; science resource room; music room; exercise room; administrative suite; conference room; teacher work room, and a parent and community room.
And the new Hungerford School has been built at the Michael J. Petrides Educational Complex — in a parking lot in the rear of the Sunnyside campus.
The new state-of-the-art building is fully accessible to serve the specialized needs of all students. Amenities include braille signage in every room, elevators on all floors and wheelchair ramps. Classrooms are equipped with hearing loops — a wire that circles a room and is connected to a sound system, which hearing-impaired students can connect to via their hearing aids or cochlear implants.
A NEW SCHOOL YEAR
The DOE has a list of reminders for public school parents, like filling out important health forms, updating contact information, and more. It includes:
- Updating your contact information by signing in to your New York City Schools Account (NYCSA). If you don’t have an account, get started at New York City Schools Account (https://www.schools.nyc.gov/learning/student-journey/nyc-schools-account).
- Filling out important health forms, like if your child needs medications or treatments throughout the school day. You can learn more online about Health Services in schools.
- Downloading a printable copy of the 2022-23 school year calendar.
- Finding contact information for your child’s school with the Find a School tool.
- Completing necessary immunizations.
- Learning about COVID-19 health and safety in schools.
The first day of school for all public school students is Thursday. The city Department of Education (DOE) academic calendar includes some two dozen days off between the first day and the last day of classes on Tuesday, June 27, 2023.
The last day of school is Tuesday, June 27.
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