NYC Parents and Teachers Smoke, as City Mum on School Calendar, Budgets and High School Offers

There are 21 school days left this year – excluding the next four school holidays – and many families and educators are furious that the city has left them without answers to some important questions to help them plan for next year.

First, the Education Department has yet to release its calendar for the upcoming school year, which was shared before the pandemic in March or April and last year was released in May.

On top of that, the schools don’t yet have their budgets for next year, which is also later than usual. A recent school board vote on the funding formula last month delayed that process, but now that the Panel for Educational Policy, or PEP, finally approved the formula this month, Education Department officials said budgets and timeline should be released soon.

“Following last week’s PEP vote, we are working to get these two items to schools as soon as possible,” Education Department spokesman Nathaniel Styer said in an email.

The city has yet to send out offers for high schools, leaving tens of thousands of families in the dark about where their children will go to school next year. Education Ministry officials said they expected to share them in June. (The college offerings were just released last week.)

It’s much later than usual, but again the application process has been delayed as the city has changed the admission criteria. Typically, applications are due in December, but this year they were due in March, after the Department of Education extended the original February deadline. (And the city’s promise of a streamlined process ended up leaving many families more confused.)

Sure, the first day of school is months away, but not knowing when and where to show up next year is confusing for many families. Some need time to plan childcare, and in a town of renters, some might move to be closer to their high school student’s school, parents told Chalkbeat.

Traditionally, the first day of school is the Thursday after Labor Day, based on the contract with the city’s teachers’ union, which gives educators two days to plan before students arrive. Last year was an exception when schools started later than usual – a week after Labor Day – because of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The Department of Education usually gave families several months to plan for the coming year. For the 2018 and 2019 school years, the calendar was posted in April. Before that, the calendar was released in March. The past two pandemic years have gone astray because there were many moving parts. In 2020, opening day was delayed at the last minute. Last year’s calendar was also considered late, but was released in the first week of May.

The unpredictability of the schedule has been a burden for some families. The last day of school this year, for example, was a headache since it is a Monday. (PSA to families about June 27: unlike years past, it’s a full day, not a half day.)

Many observers believe the city should do everything in its power to get students to show up next year, given this year’s low attendance and growing concerns about school refusal, c that is, when children have an extreme aversion to attending school, usually linked to anxiety and depression. .

By the end of the year, 37% of K-12 students are expected to be considered chronically absent, Education Department officials estimate. This means that they will have missed 10%, or about 18 days, of the school year. This is significantly higher than in 2018-2019, the year before the pandemic, when it reached 26%.

One of the ways the city hopes to combat chronic absenteeism is to launch two new full-time virtual schools for the fall. Such a program could be a boon for working students who may need non-traditional school hours. It might also appeal to families who continue to have health and safety concerns about the coronavirus or whose children have medical needs that make them more vulnerable to COVID or other illnesses. The city’s current program for children who are homebound or hospitalized due to medical conditions offers only one hour a day of live instruction for elementary and middle schools and two hours in high school. These numbers are expected to increase slightly by fall 2023 due to a new state requirement.

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