AF NY Families,
We hope you and your scholars are having a great week! We are reaching out today with an important update about our reopening plan in New York. We have decided to NOT begin hybrid learning on 11/9 as originally planned and instead plan to remain remote only in NY until January 25, 2021.
This was a DEEPLY difficult decision to make for us. There is nothing we want more than to reopen our schools for hybrid learning in NY and provide support for those students and families who want in-person school. As we were weighing this decision, it felt like there were no “good” options available.. After reviewing all of the factors, we believe that remaining remote through January 25, 2021 is the best option available considering the circumstances.
Our most important responsibility is to keep your scholar safe…and the truth is that we simply don’t think it’s safe to reopen in NYC right now. Here’s why:
- There are rising case counts – and school and non-essential business closures – in the neighborhoods surrounding our schools, where many of our families and staff members live. There are currently over 100 NYC public schools closed due to outbreaks, with another 300+ on the “watch list” for potential closures in the coming days. All currently closed schools and schools on the “watch list” are located in Brooklyn or Queens.
- Given these closures, we don’t have confidence that NYC schools in our neighborhoods will remain open consistently for the next two months. We’d rather announce a closure proactively to our families rather than wait for what seems like inevitable rolling closures that will leave our families scrambling at the last minute. Making the decision now allows our families to plan ahead – and allows us to devote our energy to ensuring remote learning in NY is really strong – as opposed to dividing efforts between on-again-off-again in-person school and remote.
- NY’s mandatory quarantine requirements require anyone traveling from a restricted area to quarantine for 14 days, even if they have a negative PCR test result. Because we cannot and would not try to dictate to our staff what they can and cannot do over the holidays, we cannot be certain that we will have enough staff to open school for the two weeks after each break. That means we would basically be open for just two weeks in November and then have to close between Thanksgiving and Winter Break.
- Additionally, we want to make sure that we have adequate time to confirm that our schools that are co-located in DOE buildings have functional ventilation systems installed. This work has unfortunately been delayed as the DOE has spent the fall focusing on re-opening – and we need additional time to adequately address any ventilation concerns in our buildings.
- Finally, we want to share our reasoning for why this extends until 1/25 even though Winter Break ends on January 3. As described above, NY’s mandatory quarantine means we don’t believe we’ll have adequate staff to run our schools from January 4 – January 18, the two weeks following Winter Break. In addition, January 18 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday, and we require three days of in-person PD before starting school which would happen on 1/19-1/21. Finally, 1/22 is a Friday, which is always remote for us this year. Thus, if we are able to open, we’d do so on 1/25 (the Monday after MLK day).
As we mentioned above, this was an incredibly difficult decision to make which is why we wanted to share our thinking as transparently as we can. We commit to sharing an update with you all in mid-December about whether we’ll be able to open in January. That decision, like this one, will be based on the safety of our facilities, the prevalence of COVID in our communities, and the likelihood that we’ll be able to serve families in a hybrid learning environment. In the meantime, please reach out to your child’s school directly with any questions.
Finally, we want to conclude with gratitude. We are incredibly thankful for ALL of your partnership and work in service of our scholars, community, and each other. If you have ANY questions about this, please feel free to reach out!
Dacia Toll (CEO), Stephanie Keenoy (Superintendent), and Richard Buery (President)