We welcome you and your students back to school and thank you for your truly extraordinary efforts during these uncertain and challenging times. As we continue to confront the unique challenges presented by COVID-19, the Board of Regents and New York State Education Department (NYSED) remain committed to the health and safety of students, educators, families, and communities.
Throughout the summer, administrators and teachers have been hard at work preparing for a healthy, successful start to the school year. At NYSED, we collaborated with a wide variety of stakeholders at the local, state, and national levels to issue a Health and Safety Guide to help schools and districts make informed decisions based on the latest guidelines from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. 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.
We will continue to provide updated information 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.
Our overall 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 will have a strong start to the school year. The beginning of this school year offers a transformational opportunity to renew our commitment to educate all children – making them feel welcomed and supported, with equitable opportunities to succeed, and valuing the cultures, languages, and experiences they bring to our schools. The scope of our challenge will not be easy but the vision of what is possible is surely worth our effort.
It is hard to believe that this is our third school year contending with COVID-19, this time amid worries about variants and research showing that students are four to five months behind in learning. In addition to academic supports, we must recognize the importance of providing social, emotional, and mental health supports for students and educators. Last year, many of New York’s students did not have in-school opportunities to build relationships and work with peers, which contribute to social-emotional development.
As students and educators return to the classroom this week, please join us in fostering a culture of belonging, connection, and hope. Thank you and have a wonderful, safe, and healthy school year.