Unusual calendar shifts, cell phone restrictions, and educational requirements in store for NYC’s next school year

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As New York City students and teachers bid farewell Wednesday, they conclude a school year characterized by changes in curriculum, political tension, and financial struggles.

Upon their return on Sept. 5 for the new school year, they will face a mix of hope and uncertainty.

Covering all the ups and downs, has documented the challenges. Some of the key hurdles in the past academic year were expected, like elementary school instructors adapting to new literacy curriculums in nearly half of the city’s 32 local school districts. Educators continued to address the best ways to support the influx of new migrant students, while advocates prepared for budget battles after the depletion of one-time federal COVID stimulus funds.

Other obstacles took everyone by surprise. The city’s sudden removal of popular food items like chicken tenders and cookies from the cafeteria menu due to excessive consumption was eventually reversed amidst public outcry. The emergence of ChatGPT technology caught the Education Department off guard, initially leading to its blocking on school devices until Chancellor David Banks reconsidered. Additionally, the current tension within school communities due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, escalating antisemitism and Islamophobia, was unexpected.

As we conclude this year, here’s a preview of the upcoming school year’s highlights.

Share your insights with us: What should we focus on as we prepare for the autumn? Reach out via email at or complete this form.

Mark Your Calendar: Important Dates for the New York City 2024-25 School Year

Following the norm, school kicks off on the Thursday following Labor Day in 2024. However, unlike previous years, there are no September breaks scheduled. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, falls on Thursday, Oct. 3, and Friday, Oct. 4.

For the first time, New York City schools will be closed for Diwali (Friday, Nov. 1), the “festival of lights” celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists.

Schools will have a single school week before the winter break, unless a 12-year-old can convince the Education Department to reconsider. School is in session on Monday, Dec. 23, but closes the following day until the Wednesday after (Jan. 1, 2025). Historically, when Dec. 23 fell on a Monday, it was allotted as a day off.

Furthermore, next June will witness one less day off compared to this year: Eid al-Adha falls on June 5, coinciding with “Anniversary Day.” The subsequent day, Friday, June 6, is deemed a “clerical day,” excluding most students except those in 6-12 grades and high schools.

Families and Teachers Might Push Back on Curriculum Mandates

The upcoming school year will witness all the city’s local school districts adopting the literacy curriculum mandate, a key element of Banks’ educational agenda. As this initiative expands, there may be increased resistance. A school has already secured a waiver exempting them from the mandate.

Simultaneously, the city is shifting focus towards enforcing math curriculum mandates for middle schools and extending the ninth-grade algebra mandate to high schools.

Potential Cell Phone Ban in Schools

Governor Kathy Hochul is contemplating a statewide school cell phone ban, with Banks also consulting New York City principals who overwhelmingly support a citywide phone ban policy.

The ban’s specifics are key to its success in reengaging students with academics and peers, according to a recent survey. While most schools in the five boroughs have existing bans, their implementations vary significantly. Educators, parents, and students agree that there’s no foolproof system, and the final policy must consider logistical challenges as well as parents’ concerns, often guilty of contacting their children during school hours.

Optional Regents Exams for NY High School Diploma

State education officials are revamping high school graduation requirements to make Regents exams optional. A more detailed plan outlining how schools can implement these changes will be released in November.

While Regents exams remain available, students can choose from various options to showcase their proficiency in seven key areas: critical thinking, effective communication, cultural and social-emotional competences, innovative problem-solving, literacy across content domains, and demonstration of being a “global citizen.”

One existing model, implemented across nearly 40 high schools with waivers for non-English Regents exams, emphasizes project-based learning with performance-based assessments.

Potential Budget Cuts Challenge Schools to Innovate

The country’s largest school system is anticipating the impact of over $7 billion in federal aid to the Education Department coming to an end this summer. This uncertainty has led to proposed cuts followed by subsequent fund restorations.

Mayor Eric Adams has decided to support the budgets of numerous struggling schools grappling with declining enrollment since the pandemic. However, city officials haven’t confirmed if schools will avoid mid-year cuts if student enrollment falls below projections. This practice, halted during the pandemic, has resurfaced this academic year.

Amy Zimmer serves as the bureau chief for New York. Contact Amy at .

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