Success Academy has decided to stay fully remote through December, the charter school network announced Thursday, citing “building readiness” and the loss of instructional time under social distancing guidelines.
The largest charter school operator in New York City with about 20,000 students, Success Academy’s 47 schools are almost all co-located in public school buildings. The original plan had been to launch the school year in a hybrid model, Success Academy officials said last month.
The network's charter schools already began the school year remotely on August 4th for high schoolers after Success Academy officials blamed the city Department of Education for not allowing its classes access to public school buildings, even though Governor Andrew Cuomo had not made a decision to authorize school reopenings anywhere in the state at that point.
Cuomo announced on August 7th that all school districts in the state can reopen if infection rates remain low.
New York City’s public schools are now slated to begin orientation on September 16th and in-person learning on September 21st, eleven days after the original school start date, following weeks of pressure by school labor unions to delay reopening.
Success Academy spokesperson Ann Powell said in a press release Thursday that the network has launched “Remote 2.0” learning, with each student equipped with laptops or tablets and hours of live instruction via Zoom five days a week. The program’s K-8 students started school on August 24th.
“With building readiness still an issue, SA concluded that continuing to be remote through at least December would provide the best learning experience for students,” Powell said in the release.
“Our Remote 2.0 is ‘real school’ with a full schedule of live instruction five days a week, and we’re putting all our energy into making this experience as rich and engaging as possible,” said Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy founder and CEO, in the release. “The logistical complexities of keeping our community safe would greatly compromise the student learning experience and limit so many of the interactions kids love about school.”
The Success Academy officials said a school day’s typical offerings, where “students gather around a rug to hear a story read, they 'turn and talk' to discuss a book, play with blocks and build together, work in groups and ask one another questions,” would not be possible under the state’s required social distancing rules.
“With the level of de-densification required at this time, such interactions would be very difficult, if not impossible. The need to practice containment would also limit recess and make the use of art rooms, dance studios, science labs, and fitness spaces very challenging,” the release said. “Finally, the complex measures to protect staff and students — having different arrival times to avoid crowding, eating in classrooms facing away from each other, carefully coordinating bathroom usage — would dramatically reduce learning time.”
Despite the pandemic, the new school year has started on a strong note, Powell said in an email to Gothamist Friday, noting that "teacher and scholar retention are stronger this year over last."