NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today joined students, educators and staff on the last day of this unprecedented school year to deliver a message of gratitude. He highlighted the tremendous accomplishments of the nation’s largest school system, which transitioned to remote learning in March while opening meal hubs for all New Yorkers and Regional Enrichment Centers serving the children of first responders.
“This school year came with unprecedented challenges, and I'm in awe of our students, educators, and families who persevered through it all,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Congratulations to every student for your accomplishments this year, and to every educator – you have your city’s gratitude.”
“This has been a school year unlike any other, and I want to say thank you to our families, teachers, and staff,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “You have so much to be proud of, and I am so grateful for all that we have accomplished together for New York City’s 1.1 million students, who swiftly adapted during this tough time. I look forward to our continued partnership in the coming months as we move toward the fall.”
On March 15, the Mayor and the Chancellor made the difficult decision to close school buildings. As the City grappled with COVID-19 and quickly became the epicenter of the global pandemic, New York City public school students, staff and families rose to the occasion. Within one week, students were engaging in meaningful remote learning that kept classrooms alive with new content and curriculum, while accounting for the trauma and deep sense of loss so many have experienced.
In order to facilitate remote learning, 310,000 internet-enabled devices were delivered to students in need; in addition to approximately 175,000 devices schools distributed before the start of remote learning. The experience has helped to close the digital divide for hundreds of thousands of families, and laid the groundwork for greater use of technology in all of our schools on a long-term basis. The provision of these devices was critical to student engagement in remote learning, which included an average of 87 percent of students daily since the system’s transformation. This summer students can use these devices or their personal devices to access e-books and audiobooks for free using their DOE ID. This includes the e-book reader Sora, which has a diverse set of resources in multiple languages for students in grades 3K-12.
Celebrating Our Graduates
On June 30th, the City will recognize the incredible accomplishments of the New York City Class of 2020 with a citywide graduation that will bring every neighborhood together in celebration of the past accomplishments and bright future of the Class of 2020. The event, which airs at 7pm on PIX 11 and will be live-streamed on social media and https://www.nycclassof2020.com, features student spotlights; musical performances; and special guest speakers—including award-winning artist, and former NYC Public School student and teacher, Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as Pitbull, Kenan Thompson, Nick Kroll, Angela Yee, Tina Fey, Andy Cohen, and more.
Schools across the City are celebrating this important milestone virtually, or at a social distance. Today, the Chancellor joined a drive-through graduation at the High School for International Studies on Staten Island, where groups of students received their diploma cases, yearbooks, and awards, and had a socially distanced tassel turning ceremony. The Chancellor also joined a virtual stepping-up ceremony at My Sunshine Kids Pre-K in Brooklyn. This year, the City issued special stepping-up videos, letters, and certificates of achievement to students in 3K, Pre-K, Kindergarten, 5th, 6th, and 8th grade in recognition of this important milestone.
Ensuring No New Yorker Goes Hungry
During normal school operations, the Department of Education (DOE) offers free breakfast and lunch to all students, and that service continued and expanded since March 16 through Meal Hubs. Today, the Chancellor served meals at a Hub in the Bronx, one of 500 sites that have served approximately 30 million meals to any New Yorker. Meal Hubs will continue serving grab-and-go meals this summer from Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 1:30pm. Vegetarian and halal meals will be available at all locations, and kosher meals will be available at select sites. Starting on June 22, pizza meal kits were added to the menu at all locations. A list of summer meal hub sites can be found starting Monday here.
Caring for the Children of Front-Line Workers
While the City began shutting down and stay-at-home orders swept across the nation, essential workers—from hospital doctors and school nurses to DOE food service and grocery store employees—continued to show up every day to keep critical operations going. Within one week, DOE made sure there was a place for their children to go each day to engage in remote learning, physical activity, and receive social-emotional support by opening dozens of Regional Enrichment Centers (RECs) across the city. Today, the Chancellor and First Lady Chirlane McCray visited the REC at PS128Q in Middle Village, Queens to thank the REC staff and participate in a morning circle with students focused on gratitude. On June 20, 2019, the Mayor, Chancellor, and First Lady announced a groundbreaking expansion of social-emotional learning, restorative practices, and mental health supports. These practices are put into use at RECs to help the children of essential workers connect and process their emotions. RECs have served over 11,000 students across over 170 sites, and will remain open during the summer to continue providing childcare. REC enrollment is still open for essential workers and families can fill out an eligibility survey here.
None of this work would have been possible without the dedication and resilience of DOE staff, who have continued to show up for students—either at RECs and Meal Hubs or over Zoom—while facing incredible hardship. This crisis has claimed the lives of 79 DOE employees, each one of whom had an indelible impact on their community, and whose loss we mourn. The Chancellor concluded his day with a message of gratitude to teachers. He celebrated the 19 winners of the eighth annual Big Apple Awards, a citywide recognition program open to all full-time teachers in New York City public schools. The Big Apple Awards are made possible in part by private support through the Fund for Public Schools, which provides classroom grants to all recipients. Additional supporters include Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, sponsor of the Arts Education Award, and New York Road Runners, sponsor of the Physical Education Award. This year’s recipients were selected from 6,000 nominations and include nine classroom teachers, four special education teachers, and two Bilingual Education teachers. Next school year, the 19 recipients, who come from all five boroughs and teach a range of subjects and grade levels, will serve as Big Apple Fellows, and will have the opportunity to meet monthly and serve on the Chancellor’s Teacher Advisory Group.
"New York City educators were a lifeline to students in this crisis. They kept learning alive for children and were a source of stability and comfort for students and their families,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Across the city, parents have told me how important their children’s teachers were in this difficult time. So I want to join the city’s parents in saying thank you to the Big Apple winners recognized today, and to their colleagues across the city. Your talent and compassion are an inspiration."
As the City begins to reopen, the DOE is working around the clock on plans to reopen schools in the fall. The health and safety of all students and staff will come first, and all plans will be guided by public health experts. Families, students, and staff are encouraged to share their feedback to help inform decisions through surveys available here for families and students and here for staff.
“Today marks what would’ve been the last day of school for many students across the city,” said Senator Jamaal T. Bailey. “Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, our students, educators, and parents faced great adversity in revamping our education system. In a matter of days, we saw our educators learn and master a new virtual system, and continue to educate our students with the same passion and dedication that they do in a classroom each day. During this pandemic our schools served more than just an educational institution. It served as a place where families and students could have free healthy meals, and as enrichment centers for the children of essential workers. As a proud public school parent, I am grateful and applaud the New York City Department of Education, and Chancellor Richard Carranza for the swift action that the department took. I would also like to thank the trailblazers during the pandemic, which are our parents, students, and our incredible teachers. Finally, we are starting to redefine what we deem as essential- and the frontline workers who kept our kids and families going in the worst of times- are more than essential.”
"The average person didn't know beforehand how extremely dedicated our school employees have been during the pandemic crisis, said Assembly Member Michael Benedetto. “I am pleased to recognize their steadfast efforts under these most trying conditions."
“From honoring and supporting our incredible educators, to creating pathways to success for our 1.1 million students, public-private partnerships are critical to this year’s achievements. We’re grateful to the many generous donors who have stepped up to address unprecedented needs throughout this crisis and help our more than 1,800 public schools finish strong,” said Julie L. Shapiro, Chief Executive Officer of the Fund for Public Schools.
Contact: Chancellor’s Press Office (212) 374-5141