We are grateful and excited to welcome you and your students back to school and thank you for your extraordinary efforts during these uncertain and challenging times. This year we appreciate the joy of walking into classrooms filled with students, led by dedicated and talented teachers.
Our shared goals for the 2021-22 school year are to keep students and staff healthy and safe, be responsive to student needs, and maximize in-person teaching and learning. Working together, we can ensure our schools and districts have a strong start to the school year and address chronic inequities that cut across classrooms and communities, particularly for underserved students.
As you know, we are at a unique moment in history. The beginning of this school year offers a transformational opportunity to renew our commitment to educate all children and to provide equitable opportunities for success. The scope of our challenge will not be easy but the vision of what is possible is well worth our effort.
This opportunity is not simply about improving what we have always done; rather, we must change the very nature of what we do, how we do it, and even why we do it. In short, we must ensure that all students are welcomed and supported, have equitable opportunities to succeed, and are valued for the cultures, languages, and experiences they bring to our schools. Together with school districts across the State, we are actively working to foster and advance the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion – ensuring that these ideals are foundational to the teaching and learning process.
We know that New York’s educators, administrators, school board members, BOCES, and school staff have worked tirelessly to make schools safe for children and families. While it is difficult to believe that this is our third school year contending with COVID-19, your hard work to prepare for a healthy, successful start to the school year will sustain the educational process in a manner that serves all students and supports the return to in-person learning.
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has collaborated with schools to provide a Health and Safety Guide with resources to make informed decisions based on the latest guidelines from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. We will continue to update these resources as public health conditions evolve and work closely with federal, state, and local agencies so schools have the information and resources necessary to support safe and engaging teaching and learning experiences. We have also expressed our strong support for Governor Hochul’s directive for the New York State Department of Health’s universal masking requirement in all schools and expect every school to be in compliance with that requirement.
Working together, we will get the school year off to a great start, once again providing safe, welcoming, and nurturing places for our students to learn and grow. Thank you for all you do to support New York’s children. Have a wonderful, safe, and healthy school year.