NYC schools chancellor, next governor hold roundtables on back to school safety

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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Two roundtable discussions were held in New York City Tuesday about the upcoming school year and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter hosted Department of Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona in the Bronx at PS5 in Port Morris.

AFT president Randi Weingarten and UFT President Michael Mulgrew were also present.

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Porter and Cardona joined nearly two dozen fifth grade students for an interactive gallery celebration walk of art created by Summer Rising students focused on their Community Heroes of COVID.

They then moved to the cafeteria to create Back 2 Homecoming signs with 20 students, grades 3-5, designed with messages of inspiration for the new school year on yard signs.

They then transitioned outside to PS/MS 5's Summer Rising mural, which was designed to highlight the places, people and interests that make their community special.

"We often talk about getting back to school for the academics and even the social, emotional piece, but what we want to let people know is that schools are communities," Dr. Cardona said. "They're like families, and that's what we saw here today."

Finally, they joined students for PSAL pre-season conditioning and a discussion on the COVID-19 vaccine at Harry S. Truman High School.

PSAL pre-season conditioning vaccination sites are one part of the Department of Education and Department of Health's "Vax to School" campaign, with additional sites at back-to-school retail locations, Saturday Night Lights locations, Summer Rising sites, and more.

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Separately, incoming governor and current Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul hosted a roundtable with parents and teachers on the upcoming school year as COVID cases rise and the delta variant spreads.

Hochul reiterated her support of mask mandates in schools over the weekend, calling it "something that I believe has to occur" for the safety of children, teachers, administrators, and the wider community.

She does not have the power to require mask wearing under current state law, but she said she would with the state legislature.

Hochul also met with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Hochul and de Blasio released a joint statement after their meeting:

"We had a productive conversation today discussing issues that are important to New Yorkers, from fighting the Delta variant to getting our kids back to school safely this fall to keeping our communities safe. We look forward to working with each other to continue New York City's recovery and end the fight against COVID."

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