How schools are trying to overcome pandemic-related mental health challenges and the pervasive effects of longstanding inequalities.

bigger class. Fewer opportunities for music and art. Lack of counselors to deal with the emotional burden of students. Too much time spent studying on the computer even in the classroom.

These are among the concerns on the minds of educators and parents as Mayor Eric Adams and President David Banks lead the nation’s largest school district into its first full year and New York City’s students return Thursday. Department.

Many educators and their families are heading into the year frustrated by disagreements over budget cuts on relief funds to spend this year.

Many people are looking forward to the resumption of school trips. They hope that the new focus on literacy will help more children learn to read, and they hope that his 3 Looking forward to a new year with less turmoil than the previous year.

But some educators are already starting the year feeling burned out after trying to teach through the pandemic.

“This year is expected to be a more ‘normal’ school year. Still, I don’t think teachers are emotionally prepared,” said Jeffrey Catano, a kindergarten teacher at PS 280 in Queens. “I love my job and come to work every day with a smile on my face. [education department] as a whole. ”

This year you will see:

who will show up?

New York City public school enrollments in kindergarten through 12th grade (excluding charters) are down 9.5% since the pandemic began, and officials said this fall there will be 30,000 K-12 students compared to last year. I expect less.

Previous chalkbeat analysis found that the schools that suffered the most losses were the richest and least wealthy schools in the city. Schools with the highest proportion of wealthy families experienced the largest declines in enrollment, followed by schools with the highest proportion of low-income families. Meanwhile, the city has seen an influx of thousands of asylum seekers, which may require intensive assistance.

Examine day-to-day attendance in addition to monitoring trends in larger enrollment numbers. Chronic absenteeism was high last year because of COVID-related quarantine (whether it was because of a child who tested positive or because of a classmate earlier in the school year), work-related obligations, or mental health issues. There are many possible reasons why. .

What’s your budget?

With funding tied to admissions and dwindling rosters, Adams has scaled back the amount he sends to most schools this year, causing political uproar.

Many educators are concerned about fewer teachers, larger classes, and less enrichment. Due to budget cuts, Shakira Provasoli went from teaching science to leading her sophomore class at the Manhattan School for Children.

“I don’t mind and I love second grade, but it’s affecting the scientific growth of my school’s students,” she said.

However, the budget was never enacted and a lawsuit challenging the budget approval process will be filed with the Court of Appeals on September 29.

If the school were to receive the money after the New Year, the problem would remain. How can they use it? School leaders who spoke to Chalkbeat said they welcomed more money, especially to hire staff, but it hasn’t been that way since the beginning of the year. may be difficult to do.

Additionally, the administration has opposed Albany’s legislation to phase in class size caps through 2027, fearing it would be too costly to implement. No, but we support it.

How does the school meet academic needs?

Budget cuts have forced many schools in New York City to let go of educators, but academic needs remain high, especially for underperforming students. Her 9-year-old’s math and reading scores on the National Educational Progress Assessment Test, known as the “National Report Card,” plummeted. It will be interesting to see how the city responds to this. (The New York City student’s score is due in his October.)

Hiring more staff, providing mass tutoring, and implementing strong after-school programs are among the strategies the federal government wants districts to spend stimulus funds on.

However, the city has already scaled back its academic recovery programs for students with disabilities, many of whom are struggling significantly with distance learning. Last year, the city’s schools were responsible for providing extra support after school or on Saturdays for all students using the Individualized Education Program (IEP). The program took some time to get off the ground, but there were hurdles in recruiting educators and enrolling families. The majority of eligible students did not participate. This year, the city is giving families greater responsibility to advocate for additional support for children with disabilities.

Manhattan mom Lisa Brussel moved a first grader on the autism spectrum from a traditional public school to a charter school this year due to a lack of support for students with disabilities.

“My son really hated school last year because the teachers didn’t give him the right support,” she said. I hope you can.”

How do schools deal with mental health?

“Students are emotionally fragile,” said Provasoli of the Manhattan School for Children.

Last year, the city introduced a social skills screening tool as one way to address mental health needs. Questionnaires that are expected to be reused are designed to assess students’ decision-making ability, self-awareness, and self-responsibility. Many educators say they feel incapable of assessing students on these skills, but have been using them for years and have had a lot of support in using the data. Departmental schools have been able to use assessments to transform schools’ culture.

The city has approximately 5,000 social workers and guidance counselors, approximately 900,000 students, and every school has at least one social worker or clinician in a school-based mental health clinic. However, many educators say schools need more mental health resources.

“Our school has had excellent counselors over the years. But with only two out of 700 students, much of their time is (understandably) spent on IEP mandates. It’s been done,” said Tom Griffiths, a sixth-grade teacher at Brooklyn Collaborative Studies, a middle and high school.

The school, he said, is fortunate to have three “irreplaceable” counselor interns and a management structure focused on building empathy. Not enough yet.

“We need more funding to get more support in this area,” he said. “The pandemic is weighing heavily on our entire community. Students are feeling anxious, staff are dealing with personal trauma, and COVID is still lurking in the background.”

How will COVID affect schools this year?

Schools have abandoned most of the city’s COVID mitigation measures this year. Say goodbye to daily health screeners and on-site PCR tests. Continue to expect fast inspections for take-home. Masking and quarantine have already been phased out last year. One thing that remains, however, is the COVID vaccine requirement for staff and visitors, as well as students participating in sports and extracurricular activities.

The city continues to report cases of COVID in the community. For example, on Tuesday, 148 cases were reported among students and staff. (Many charter students have already returned.)

Beth Koperowitz, who works with different classes of students as an English teacher at PS 215 in Brooklyn as a new language teacher, said she still doesn’t feel safe because of the coronavirus.

“We will still be wearing masks in the classroom,” she said.

What about classroom literacy and other educational changes?

Adams is overhauling literacy education in New York City schools, calls for more phonics in the early grades, introduces screening tools for students through 10th grade, and helps students with print assignments trying to find It remains to be seen whether educators will have sufficient support and training to successfully implement the changes, as some educators say their schools have cut reading professionals due to budget cuts. Hmm.

The Adams administration created the first virtual school this year, allowing only ninth graders to start. Adams and Banks are focusing on several other initiatives, including expanding career and technical education programs, adding more “talented and gifted” seats, and making it one of the most segregated districts in the country. It shows a lack of interest in working on integration.

Adams and Banks, meanwhile, are spending a lot of time and political capital to reorganize the bureaucracy in the education sector, and in the process demand that school district superintendents reapply for jobs, causing some backlash. In its latest game of musical chairs, the city is moving about 1,000 employees from central and borough offices to district offices.

Amy Zimmer is the Director of Chalkbeat New York. Please contact her Amy at

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