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Did the DoE really tell principals they are on their own? Yes

June 14, 2020 pm30 1:50 pm

How should principals schedule for the fall? After a powerpoint, a letter, and a list of “guiding questions” the best the DoE has is “As we develop guidance on how to create your school’s schedule for the fall, updated resources will be posted”

Keep reading.

This is the letter that the principals received. I’ve un-linked all links. Sorry.

The attached capacity estimates were often wrong. In some cases, every room was wrong. In most cases the number of usable administrative rooms was wrong; their capacities were pretty universally wrong. Many of the registers were wrong.

But what’s worst, there is no guidance. There was no workable guidance in the DOE Planning Overview for Principal Meetings (the powerpoint).

There is a list of Guiding Questions for Principals. I’ve posted it at the end. They provide no guidance. In fact, they look like some idiots around a table batted around ideas, and every time they hit something way too hard for them to answer, they said, “That’s too hard for us. Let’s ask the principals.”

There are promises that the “guidance” will be updated. I do not believe that they will update, or if they update, in the same spirit as what they have already provided, it will not be useful.

Look, what they are trying to do is hard. They must have tried, realized they couldn’t pull it off, and sent a detail-free document to the principals, saying get it done. The failure will be on the principals and the schools. And the cost, compromised safety, chaos, will be on students, families, and teachers.

I do not care how smart the author of this letter is – she was willing to put her name to this document. She should face consequences for such gross irresponsibility.


Dear Principals,

As you heard from Chancellor Carranza, the DOE is considering a variety of options for opening schools in the fall with modifications for social distancing. Our priority is and will remain the safety of our students and staff. As such, a key question that underlies all subsequent decisions is: How many students and staff can we accommodate in our schools under social distancing constraints, with the goal of ensuring that we safely serve our students and staff?

The Division of School Planning and Development is developing new school-level student and staff capacities factoring in social-distancing requirements. Using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Department of Health, and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; data from the Principal Annual Space Survey (PASS); enrollment data; and prior capacity and utilization data, these capacity calculations aim to ensure that at least six feet of space can be maintained around each person in a classroom, and that there remains room for teachers and students to circulate.

Attached you will find preliminary capacity information for your school, as well as further detail about underlying assumptions at the end of this email. Capacity is based on room allocations per the PASS data (available under “Facilities” in the “Reports” section of your school’s profile at and currently planned 2020-2021 allocations; these calculations and allocations are both subject to change. In particular, we want to acknowledge the rapidly changing need for District 75 capacity as a result of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the provision of services for these students, and we appreciate your support in ensuring the needs of these students can be met.

As you develop an understanding of how many students you can accommodate in your space under social distancing, we recognize that programming amidst the current uncertainty will be a challenge. There are aspects of fall programming, such as organizing classes or course requests and making tentative teacher assignments, that you have underway. We also ask that you think through how different scheduling options could be implemented (see the School Building Re-Opening Preliminary Planning Overview PowerPoint [removed link]) and consider which scheduling option will be the most adaptive for possible changing circumstances in the fall. DOE will follow up with additional guidance on scheduling options in the coming weeks. Please also keep in mind that any classrooms that serve students six years old and younger must be inspected for lead and cleared for use for this age group.

We greatly appreciate your collaboration as we move this work forward together amid so much uncertainty.  Your leadership is critical in our ability to meet our students’ educational and social-emotional needs in a safe and supportive way. Also attached to this email is a set of guiding questions to prompt your thinking about how to approach this planning for your school and community.  To help us refine our system-wide thinking, please complete [removed link] to share your feedback and input on the space assumptions and programming options under consideration no later than Friday, June 26th.

You may submit specific space or facilities related inquiries at [removed link]. Information and answers to your questions will be posted on a rolling basis at [removed link].

As we develop guidance on how to create your school’s schedule for the fall, updated resources will be posted on our Academic Policy resources page at: [removed link].

Additionally, if you need access to your school building for an extended period of time, please submit a request for building access through [removed link] that will be sent directly to your Borough Safety Director (BSD).  Your BSD will ensure that a School Safety Agent is available during the time of your visit.


Karin Goldmark
Deputy Chancellor, Division of School Planning and Development


 Social Distancing Capacity Assumptions:

§  Capacity ranges assume approximately 65 square feet per person.

§  The student capacity of each room assumes one adult, with the exception of 3-K and pre-K classes (where we assume two adults) and District 75 (where we assume 3 adults); classes requiring additional staff would result in a smaller student capacity for that room.

§  Full-size rooms are at least 500 square feet; half-size rooms are 240-499 square feet.

§  Instructional spaces include any rooms currently used for instruction or students support services.

§  Administrative spaces include all offices, as well as teachers’ and parents’ rooms; it excludes storage and building support rooms, as well as quarter-size rooms (<240 square feet).

§  Estimated total school-level capacity calculations assume that 100% of full-size instructional rooms will be used for instruction, and that 50% of full-size administrative space could be repurposed for instruction.

§  These preliminary total capacity calculations do not assume use of half-size rooms for regular instruction, with the exception of District 75.

§  School-level capacity does not include public assembly space at this stage.  However, these spaces may be able to be repurposed for instruction as necessary.  More guidance on this is forthcoming.


Guiding Questions were provided in a separate document:

Guiding Questions for Principals


As you review your school’s capacity information, consider the following questions:


▪ What adjustments to the capacity assumptions are needed for your school community? Why are these adjustments needed? Please keep in mind that the capacity assumptions are based on the currently planned allocations for the 2020-2021 school year.

▪ Can you use non-instructional spaces to serve more students? Why or why not? If yes, which spaces?

▪ How might you use smaller, half-size rooms (240-499 sq. ft., typically used for special classes, students support services, or administrative needs) to serve students or to accommodate other needs, such as dedicated health care spaces?

▪ Are there particular spaces you believe cannot be used for instruction under the circumstances? If so, which spaces?

▪ What do you consider to be the best use of public assembly spaces (auditorium, gym, cafeteria)? If not instructional, why is this use of the space better than using the space for additional instructional space? How will you ensure social distancing in public assembly spaces?

▪ What supports would be helpful in implementing these changes to your space?


The following questions aim to prompt your thinking about the various considerations for programming and scheduling under these circumstances:


  • How would you approach programming your school schedule under social distancing constraints either on alternate days or alternate week schedules? Which decisions would you make first?
  • How would you decide which students were grouped together on alternate schedules?
  • Which instructional experiences would you prioritize for in-person instruction?
  • Are there groups of students you would recommend attend every day? Why do you think it is important we prioritize these students? How would you prioritize these group of students given space constraints?
  • What questions would you have about program services for students with disabilities and English language learners?
  • How would you arrange for the provision of in-person related services?
  • If your school serves 3-K and/or Pre-K, how will you ensure that you can continue to support these students in your building? What considerations are top of mind as you consider supporting this population in your building?
  • How would you adjust your school’s bell schedule/period lengths/length of school day?
  • How would you adjust plans for entry and dismissal, including working with other schools on the campus as applicable?
  • How would you approach providing instruction for students who are learning remotely on any given day?
  • What considerations will be necessary to create a schedule that can be modified over the year as public health guidelines are updated (for example, if we are able to serve more students at once)?
  • What questions and concerns do you think families would have? How can you incorporate family preference in your scheduling?
  • For classrooms that will be used to serve students that are six years old or younger, have those classrooms been inspected for lead in past cycles?
  • What additional information would you need to create your master schedule?


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