United States Congressman Hakeem Jefferies held a virtual town hall this past week to prepare students and families within his district (which includes parts of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Ridgewood, Flatbush, and East New York) for the return of full in-person learning in New York City Public Schools. This September marks the first time that all public school students in the City will be returning to the classroom since the pandemic arrived last March.
“Frederick Douglas once said, ‘It is easier to build good children than it is to repair broken men,’ and of course women,” Representative Jeffries recounted during the town hall’s opening remarks. “I know many families throughout the district are now preparing to go back to school, and we wanted to make sure that they had an opportunity to have a dialogue. More than a million New York City School children are preparing to return to school next year, which is a large task.”
Congressman Jefferies played a role in writing and passing the American Rescue Plan on the federal level this past march, an achievement that the Representative celebrated once again during the back to school event.
“One of the most important things we [House Democrats] did with the American Rescue Plan was to provide more than 150 billion dollars in assistance to school systems across the country to help them prepare for this great reopening,” Jefferies explained. “We provided close to 10 billion to New York State to reopen school systems and a little over 5 billion to schools in New York City.”
In addition to direct funding for schools, the American Rescue Plan also sent out stimulus checks and expanded the child tax credit to qualifying families, among other things.
Congressman Jefferies was joined by New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter during the back to school event, who went into more detail about school reopening procedures.
“I am immensely proud of all our students, parents, and faculty who have been so resilient through this past year. This will be our homecoming,” said Porter, herself a product of the New York City public school system. “On September 13th, I am so excited, New York City will welcome all our students to in person classes for the first time in over 18 months. We will be returning to the classroom after the hardest year in our lives.”
She continued: “COVID highlighted so many disparities in our City, and I hope we don’t forget that but instead use it as energy to make real change. We ended last year with only a 0.03 COVID-19 positivity rating. If this year we follow the data the way that we have done, I know that we will have a great year of in-person education.”
Protected face coverings are still required inside and outside of all Department of Education buildings, regardless of vaccination status. Schools will also work to ensure at least 3 feet of social distancing between students and faculty when possible. Every classroom in NYC was also equipped with two air purifiers throughout the past year to add additional ventilation and air circulation.
All schools will be required to randomly test 10% of unvaccinated students every week to continue monitoring the rate of COVID. Quarantine policies will still be in effect when positive cases are confirmed. If there is evidence of a widespread contamination, schools will be closed for a ten day period, during which classes will continue virtually.