Dear AF New York Team & Family,
We are writing today to share an update with you regarding our reopening plans in New York. Last week we shared the public health standard for community spread that we would use to govern our reopening decisions. Since then, unfortunately, reported test positivity rates in Brooklyn neighborhoods where our schools are located continue to rise – and it has become clear that there is little chance that positivity rates will be low enough for us to safely reopen schools. Given this, we have decided that we will NOT resume in-person learning for scholars that need it on March 9 as originally planned. Given the timing of Spring Break at the end of March, this means that our new target date to resume in-person learning is April 19th.
Two principles have guided all of our reopening decisions this year: 1) safety and 2) meeting the needs of our scholars and families. This decision, like all other decisions, is grounded in these principles. As we wrote last week, the public health guidance we are receiving suggests that when community spread is high, the safety of in-person learning is jeopardized. Based on this, we said that we would only resume in-person learning for our scholars if the case positivity rate in our communities is 5% or less (case positivity rate is a public health metric that calculates the percentage of total COVID tests administered which return a positive result). We calculate this by taking the weighted average of the case positivity rates in the ZIP codes where our schools are located so that we accurately represent the positivity rate in the communities our scholars and schools are located in. We have been tracking this data via this spreadsheet. When we communicated these criteria last week, our case positivity rate was 7.21%, already significantly higher than our 5% threshold. Since then, the case positivity rate has actually increased to over 8%. The fact that the rates remain so high – and are trending upwards – tells us that we are unlikely to reach our 5% threshold in the next 2 weeks. With this in mind, we wanted to communicate this change to our school communities as soon as possible so that our staff and families can begin planning for us to remain remote for longer.
This is deeply disappointing news as we know that a number of families need in-person learning. While we will not be able to resume in-person learning on March 9, we will prepare to resume in-person learning on April 19. This is two weeks after our NY Spring Break so that staff/scholars who travel can quarantine and so that our staff will have enough time for in-person training to implement our safety protocols. Our hope is that by April 19, positivity rates have dropped and that a greater number of our staff members who are comfortable getting the vaccine are able to do so. If we are able to return to in-person learning in April, we still plan to implement the COVID testing program we shared last week.
We know that this letter represents yet another change during a year where so much is changing so often. As always, we are so grateful to you for your partnership and we dearly hope that you and your family remain safe and well!
Dacia Toll (CEO), Richard Buery (President), and Stephanie Keenoy (Superintendent)