On September 1st, Brooklyn parents and guardians sat in front of their computers to join the Back-to-School Family Forum held by the New York Department of Education to address concerns they had about New York City’s attempt to fully open schools to all students within the five boroughs. Up until that point, schools were only open for students and parents who opted in to having their students in the school building. For the most part, students stayed at home and learned through synchronous online classes.

Worries about building capacity, air purity and social distancing were all addressed in the forum by Chancellor Meisha Porter, Chief Schools Operation Officer Kevin Moran and Brooklyn District Superintendents Karen Watts and Barbara Freeman. Throughout the forum, school officials ensured that the health and safety of staff and students was their number one priority, as well as encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated.

“The health and safety of our students, staff and school communities remains our highest priority. . . Last year we showed that our public schools were some of the safest places to be during the pandemic. And as vaccination rates continue to rise, every day we expect far fewer disruptions to learning. We have pushed to get every student aged 12 and over vaccinated. . . Vaccines are a passport out of this pandemic and they will work hand in hand with the other safety measures: universal masking, fully operational ventilation, regular testing and more,” said Chancellor Porter.

P.S. 272 in Canarsie, Brooklyn. People can be seen walking back and forth in the front office of the school, as staff get ready for students to return on Monday, September 13. Credit: Amberley Canegitta

This sentiment was reinforced at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Media Availability Conference on Wednesday. De Blasio is expecting every child to be back in school on Monday and emphasized that it would be the most important first day of school for New York City.  “This is going to be one of those game-changer days, one of these days that we’ll remember when we turn the corner on COVID.”

Chief Schools Operation Officer Kevin Moran gave information on the extent of how well schools will be prepared in preventing the spread COVID-19 by showing the public the tools schools will be using to continue to stop spread. This included MERV 13 and MERV 14 filters, CO2 readers, anemometers, electrostatic sprayers and of course PPE for all staff and students like face shields, N-95 masks and gloves.

Mayor de Blasio also made sure to make an appeal to the federal government to work on getting the vaccine available to children aged five to 11.