On Monday night, Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter answered questions from Manhattan parents during an online forum about the full reopening of public schools slated for Sept. 13.
The town hall was the second of five forums the chancellor is hosting to hear about families’ experiences with remote or blended learning over the past year and to listen to concerns families might have over a full return to schools in the fall. Each forum lasts an hour and a half with the remaining three scheduled to take place over the next two weeks. The DOE will host the Queens forum on May 27, the Brooklyn forum on June 7, and lastly the Bronx forum on June, 9.
Here are a few highlights from last night’s Q-and-A:
Q: The mayor said there will be parent engagement on the reimagining of Gifted and Talented programs. The Department of Education is already having meetings on this. When will parents be included in the discussion?
A: “We’ve started conversations but we have not started the engagement process,” Porter responded. ” I believe very strongly that it is important to get parent voices throughout the process. What I can say is there are no decisions being made, the conversations we are having now are what the process will be for engaging parents and including parents in the conversation. So watch out for more information because we want parents to be at the table for these important conversations.”
Q: What is the plan for next year to have quality affordable after-school care for children?
A: “We are really looking to build those enrichment activities which become quality after school care for many families but really believe that as we come out of this pandemic, creating enrichment programs during and after school, building strong after school programing again partnering with our community and community-based organizations to build those programs is going to be important,” Porter said.
Q: In regard to health and safety how will we [the DOE] ensure safety in schools? And what steps are being taken to ensure a healthy school environment?
A: “We’ve talked a lot about building schools that are providing strong social-emotional support for students through the access to mental health providers as well as ensuring social-emotional practices are part of our classrooms…but also schools where our students see themselves and experience themselves and their cultures in the curriculum and that is going to be critical for our reopening and our new beginning,” said Porter. Kevin Moran, chief operating officer for school operations, chimed in during the forum to mentioned this fall students and staff will be required to still take part n daily COVID-19 pre-screenings, masks will still be required in schools and testing will continue this fall. Morar added that the City last year installed 70,000 air purifiers in schools in order to ensure classrooms were receiving properly filtered air. This spring, the City will install another 70,000 air purifiers.
“Effectively custodians in partnership with principals are working with staff and families alike to know that the building is well ventilated and our systems around deep cleaning and disinfection are to be in place,” said Moran.
Q: What will be done if anything to make up for the 2020 lost curriculum skills?
A: “I know that there has been a gap for all of our students, ” said Porter. ” So that’s why we are going to invest in high-quality screeners and assessments to tell our teachers where our students are, so they can work to address the gaps.”