Open Letter on Schools Reopening

Dear EVCS Families,

On Friday afternoon Liz and I, in solidarity with other District 1 school leaders, signed an open letter to the Mayor, Governor, and Chancellor, urging them to delay the start of in-person school for students this fall. The concerns outlined in the letter, which can be read here, echo those of school leaders across the city, the principals and teachers unions, City Council members, New York City’s Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and countless others. To be honest, it was a difficult letter to sign because we are used to facing adversity, doing difficult work and making lemonade out of lemons. Saying “this is too much” is just not in our repertoire. But the reopening of the largest school system in the country is too important, the stakes too high, for us to not get it right for all of our schools. And most importantly, we must be able to guarantee the safety of our students, staff and families.

Since schools closed on March 16th we have worked tirelessly with our teachers and staff to create the best possible learning experience for our students while prioritizing the health and safety of everyone in our community. Throughout the summer we have been working nonstop to plan the incredibly complicated logistics for reopening with a blended learning model, often with very limited or very late information and guidance on critical questions regarding instructional models, special education compliance, and labor policy. We’ve been forging ahead with our plan making, trusting that guidance will be forthcoming, but the fact is that with just a couple of weeks before the start of the school year there are still many unanswered questions, shortages of in-person staff at schools throughout the city due to medical accommodations, and promised supplies and PPE still not yet delivered to schools. Perhaps most importantly we are not being allowed the necessary time to train our staff on all of the many critical health and safety protocols and instructional practices for blended learning. We will need time – beyond the two days the city has allowed, between when teachers return from their well-earned summer vacations on September 8 and students are slated to return to buildings on September 10, to work with our teachers to plan what high quality teaching and learning will look like in this brand-new context. Believe me, we want nothing more than to be back in school buildings with our children and families, as soon as possible. But we feel that it is essential that schools be completely and totally prepared for this transition, and until adequate safety precautions and appropriate training can be put in place for all schools, in-person learning should be delayed.

In some ways the challenges we face now are no different than those we face each year. We could always use more time to train, to plan, to make our school building better and safer for students, families, and teachers. Every school year we have questions that go unanswered by the Chancellor, the Mayor, and the Governor. But we all know this year is different. The stakes are so much higher that we felt it necessary to add our voices to the many others demanding answers and common-sense solutions from our leaders. One thing that remains the same this year as it does every year is that no matter the response we receive from this letter, or what the city’s timeline for reopening ends up being, the EVCS staff will do absolutely everything in our power to make this school year the best, and the safest it can be for our students and families. If you chose blended learning for your children, please know that we will be there for them, smiling at them from behind our masks, ready to create a rigorous and joyful learning experience, no matter when the first day of school happens to be.

With love and gratitude,

Bradley and Liz