The childcare centers established by New York City in the spring to assist families of essential workers will close down on September 11th in preparation for schools reopening, according to the Department of Education.

About 2,500 DOE employees have worked at the Regional Enrichment Centers (RECs) located in about 170 schools around the city, ultimately caring for about 14,000 children since the program launched on March 30th, the DOE said.

“When the pandemic first hit, we put all our efforts into guaranteeing childcare for the heroes who kept our city running—and we did so for six months with unwavering support and gratitude. These centers have been staffed by the first responders for the first responders, who are now taking on their next heroic task: returning to their home schools for a safe and successful reopening,” said DOE spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon in an emailed statement.

New York City schools are now scheduled to reopen on September 21st for in-person learning, after orientation that begins remotely for students on September 16th. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the new first day of school this week after facing intense pressure from educators and a threat of a teachers’ strike.

The city’s Learning Bridges program, expected to launch on September 21st as well, will play a similar role to RECs by providing space for the kids of working parents, including essential workers, to be supervised as they attend remote learning. Under the auspices of the DOE and the Department of Youth and Community Development, the program aims to help 50,000 children each day of blended learning in partnership with community-based organizations, with space for up to 100,000 students enrolled.

The RECs helped provide a testing ground for the DOE’s plans to reopen schools in the fall, said Joe Miller, a site supervisor at PS 56 on Staten Island who was provided by the DOE to speak to Gothamist about his experience.

When he started at PS 56, “there was little guidance anywhere -- in the city, in the state, in the country,” Miller said. “Safety protocols evolved as we were here, so masks weren't mandated when we started. Some of the safety protocols were just being born in some sense, so we've learned to evolve with the safety guidelines.”

"The biggest takeaway is, if people remain vigilant with safety protocols this is a model program," Miller added.

The DOE touted the success of the RECs safety protocols as well, with no reports of clusters of cases or “large amount of symptomatic reports,” the DOE said. A question about the number of total cases that were reported in REC communities was not immediately answered Friday.

The Learning Bridges program will by design serve many more students than the RECs did, and questions still remain unanswered about how they’ll work, as THE CITY pointed out: as of this week, crucial details of who will attend which program, access to medical staff, and guidance around drop-offs, pickups and ventilation at their facilities have yet to be announced.