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Back to School 2021 Updates

photo of colored chalk with overlaid text that reads "back to school 2021"

Back to School 2021

Stay up-to-date on the most recent NYC schools updates by subscribing to AFC's weekly Blackboard Bulletin. Want to see what you've missed? Catch up on some of our most recent issues below:

Refer to our Start of School Year 2021-22 Fact Sheet for Families of Students with Disabilities (also available in Spanish and Chinese), which we will continue to update as we learn more.

 Live Back to School 2021 Updates

➞ Special Education Recovery Services

All families of students with disabilities should have received a letter [PDF] about Special Education Recovery Services. Special Education Recovery Services are specialized instruction and related services, targeted to a student's individual needs, to help address the learning disruptions experienced during the pandemic. These services will be provided in an after-school and/or Saturday program in addition to the supports and services a student gets during the regular school day. Parents should not need to take any action to start the process; schools will be reaching out between now and mid-November to discuss the plan for their child. Accepting Recovery Services does NOT waive a student’s right to other services, including compensatory services. More information is available on the DOE's website.

➞ Remote Learning Options for NYC Families

The DOE has said all public school this year will be in person. If you have concerns about that and don’t want to send your child to school in person, you may have options depending on your child’s needs:

  • Home Instruction: Some children have the right to receive home instruction — 1 or 2 hours a day of instruction depending on the student's grade level — if they have a health issue that keeps them from being able to attend school in person. Because of the pandemic, the DOE is making medically necessary home instruction available to more students than in the past. That instruction can include individual in-person instruction by a certified teacher and small group instruction by certified teachers through digital platforms. The DOE has released a list of medical conditions that will automatically qualify a student for home instruction and families whose children have one of those conditions or need home instruction for other reasons can apply. For more information on how to do so, see the DOE’s Family Homecoming 2021 Health and Safety Guide. The Home Instructor will not be the same teacher your child would have if they were in-person in school. For details, see www.homeinstructionschools.com.

  • Home Schooling: Home schooling is when you withdraw your child from public school and you, or you and a group of other families, teach your children yourselves from home or some place that isn’t the school building. There are state requirements for home schooling and there is no financial assistance for this. Parents must apply to be allowed to home school and explain how they will keep their child on track academically. There are private programs that sell curricula for parents to use at home.

  • Private remote school: Some families will pay for online school. This is something the family must arrange and the family will need to pay their student’s tuition. It is possible to ask for related services to be provided through an Individualized Education Services Plan (IESP), but if you’re asking now, it will take a while to put in place. Those services may be provided through Related Services Authorizations (RSAs) or at schools.

➞ Health & Safety Protocols

  • Vaccinations and testing: All DOE employees (including teachers, staff, school safety agents, and Pre-K staff) are required to be vaccinated. All employees in public schools, including charter schools and pre-k staff who work for community organizations, must receive at least one vaccine dose by the end of September. Bus drivers and attendants must be vaccinated or provide weekly proof of negative COVID tests. There will also be weekly COVID testing for 10% of those students whose families have given consent.

  • Masking and social distancing: Under guidance from the Center for Disease Control and the State’s Education Department, students and staff in school should be 3 feet apart, with a few exceptions. For example, during lunch when students can take their masks off, they will be expected to sit 6 feet apart. Everyone in school should wear a mask. If your child can’t wear a mask for health reasons (i.e. drooling, breathing issues, unable to tolerate it/sensory issues), get a letter from your doctor and provide it to the school now. School buses are supposed to keep windows open if weather permits. There is no social distancing requirement on buses.

  • Medical exemptions for masking: All students, except those with medical exemptions, are required to wear a mask in school. Schools must provide support to all students who have difficulty wearing a mask, and give extra support to students with disabilities. All students must be permitted to remove their mask when eating and drinking and can request mask breaks for up to 5 minutes at a time. If your student struggles with wearing a mask, let the school know! Ask for mask breaks and specific supports, such as school social worker assistance or a positive behavior plan. We urge schools not to remove students from class or school for not wearing a mask. Parents should call our Helpline or send us a message with any questions or to report any issues.

  • Quarantine protocols: The DOE is following CDC guidelines to determine who is considered a "close contact" and needs to quarantine following a positive case. In general, the DOE is no longer closing entire classrooms. Schools will be closed only when it is determined by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) that there is widespread transmission in the school. For more information, see the DOE's Health & Safety webpage and Gothamist's helpful Q&A.

➞ Transportation

All families should have been notified about their bus routes the week prior to the begining of school through their NYC Schools Account, where you can log in to check your child’s bus status. Bus companies should also be calling to confirm bus routes. If you need help setting up or accessing a NYC Schools Account, reach out to your child's school.

If your child requires specialized busing, it should have been in place before the start of the school year. That is true whether your child attends a public school, a charter school, or a non-public special education program – as long as their IEP calls for specialized busing to and from school. 

To report any complaints with busing issues, call OPT at (718) 392-8855 or visit schools.nyc.gov/school-life/transportation/contact-information. You can also contact your child's school and ask to speak with the Transportation Coordinator.

Prepaid transportation available for families who have not received busing service: The DOE will arrange rides via LimoSys (an app-based ride service) for students who have IEPs that recommend busing, but who have not yet been routed or who are waiting for a nurse or bus paraprofessional to be assigned to ride with them, as well as for students living in shelter who are supposed to take the bus to school but do not yet have a route. Eligible families should reach out to their child's school and ask them to submit a LimoSys request to the DOE. Students living in shelter should speak with their Students in Temporary Housing Regional Manager.

➞ Students Aged 21 or older

Students who turned 21 during the 2021-22 school year can return to their high school this fall, or enroll in a transfer school or YABC. Learn more on the DOE's website, and email agingout@afcnyc.org with any questions. 

➞ Enrollment

Family Welcome Centers (FWC) are DOE offices that help families with enrollment and admissions issues, including newly arrived immigrants who need to enroll in school. Currently, FWCs are speaking with families Monday through Friday over email, phone or video conference. To make an appointment with FWC staff, call (718) 935-2828. More information about FWCs is available on the DOE's website. Questions can also be emailed directly to your borough's Welcome Center address:

Bronx: bronxfwc@schools.nyc.gov
Brooklyn: brooklynfwc@schools.nyc.gov
Manhattan: manhattanfwc@schools.nyc.gov
Queens: queensfwc@schools.nyc.gov
Staten Island: statenislandfwc@schools.nyc.gov