Mayor Eric Adams: Good morning, good morning. Good to get back to school, you know, on this chilly day. So we are going to be brief because I do not like the cold. So we – listen, we're really excited about the opening of our schools and we want to be extremely clear, the safest place for our children is in a school building, and we are going to keep our schools open and ensure that our children are in a safe environment. If you look last year – 2020, you witness that the transmission rate was less than one percent inside a school. In a household it was over 15 percent, but it was more than just COVID. Our children were exposed to an environment of crime, of uncertainty, it really traumatized parents that did not have childcare. The remote learning aspect of it was terrible for poorer communities, particularly those children that lived in homeless shelters, or lived – were housing insecure. The food aspect, schools provide primary meals for many students in this city. And then the socialization, we saw an increase in suicide – attempted suicides. We saw children that were exposed to dangerous environments. Schools play a role of safety and stability for our children, and that is why the Chancellor and I, and an entire team of educators across the city, we have been so focused on keeping our schools open and sending that message. We're not sending an unclear message of what is going to happen day to day, I'm going to tell you what's going to happen day to day, we are staying open. We're going to do everything that we have to do to keep our schools open, and I know there's questions about staffing, and I know there's question about testing. There's a lot of questions, but we're going to turn those question marks into an exclamation point, we're staying open. We're going to make sure our children are in safe spaces, and something happened over the last days, from Wednesday on, that did not show on the radar of New Yorkers. We took over 1.5 million test kits, mobilized our educators, Michael Mulgrew from the UFT, the Chancellor, his team, NYPD, other city agencies, and we placed test kits in every school in the Department of Education, so when the teachers and staff and principals returned, they had to test kits on the ground. Seamless coordination of how city agencies are supposed to come together to do what I say all the time, what my administration is going to be known for, GSD, get stuff done. We're going to get stuff done in this city to make sure we can focus and operate.
So, I want to thank this entire team here, the principal and their administrators. I want to thank my partners in government, Councilman Salamanca, and the amazing Borough President of the borough of the Bronx, Vanessa Gibson, and all the leadership team in school community that that are here, that they go beyond the call of duty to provide for our children. And we're here today to say to them, we have your backs, to allow you to do your job in a rightful way. And I'm proud of my Chancellor and his focus and determination to create an environment where we will raise healthy children and educate them to the fullness of their ability to function and be productive citizens in our society. So I'm going to take a step back, turn the microphone over to the Chancellor of the City of New York. David Banks, Chancellor.
Schools Chancellor David Banks: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. It's certainly my pleasure to be here this morning on a first day back to school for the new semester, and the beginning of a new day, I think in New York, for all of our young people. And I'm particularly happy to be here in the Bronx, and I feel like I'm back in my old stomping grounds. I was a principal for many years, just a few blocks from here, and so I know this area very well when I was the founding principal of the Bronx School for Law Government and Justice, as well as the Eagle Academy, and so I'm certainly happy to be here. The Mayor already mentioned some of the elected officials who are here, but I also wanted to acknowledge Assembly Member Jackson, Council Member Stevens as well, thank you so much for being here, appreciate you, you beautiful son as well, thank you. Really important – this school that we happen to be at, we're here for a particular reason, because these are - these schools that, that were with sharing time with you this morning, are very focused on not just excellence, but their ability to work together as schools is critically important. As I just want to take a moment and acknowledge the principals who are here today and their staff, Principal Sorden and Principal Hoggard. Where are you? Please wave so everybody can see you, because what you are doing here today is absolutely – there she is, Principal Sorden, superstar, and you need to know that, her school is a Blue Ribbon School. It's one of the best schools in the city and around the country, and it's an example of what we want to lift up in this work, and we need everyone else around the city to understand the kind of work that you do, and how others can learn from that. But for Principal Hoggard, we’re here because, as well, this is a District 75 school that you have, and the issues and the challenges. So we’re here very intentionally, because the Mayor said, I want to be in a place where there's a District 75 population, because it's critically important that you know that we see you, we respect you, we're going to support you and give you all that you need in order to continue to be successful. So we want to thank you so much, Principal Hoggard and your entire staff, who's out here as well, freezing in the cold, amazing. I'm so proud to stand here today, shoulder to shoulder with not only Mayor Adams, but every single educator, school leader, social worker, guidance counselor, food service employee, custodian, and school safety agents who come to school every day to serve our children, and we want to thank them very, very much. We have worked night and day with our partners in City Hall, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Test and Trace Corps, and I want to do a special shout out to the NYPD because of the work that they did in working with the Governor's office to ensure that we got all the test kits that we needed to ensure that all of our kids will be safe. So big shout out everybody, please, for all of those Mayoral agencies, and the NYPD who worked so hard to make sure that all of our children would be safe here today. We want to thank them so much.
Today we're announcing a Department of Education COVID Command Center, where principals and district leadership can immediately address and escalate any issues they need help with, including ensuring that our buildings have the staff that they need to safely operate. This escalation protocol will support our school leaders across the city and help to keep our doors open. Our schools are safe by design, at every school, when someone walks into the building, they have to pass a health screening, that building has fully functioning ventilation, universal mask usage, and every adult is vaccinated. These measures make schools the safest environments for young people to be in, just as our Mayor said, safer than any other public place where these measures are not generally enforced. There is less COVID in our schools than in the community, and when a case does occur, it is not likely to be passed along. Today, we have 1.5 million rapid test kits on hand. When there is a case in school, we will test every close contact, isolate positive cases and keep the rest of our young people safely learning. This is on top of the work that we've done improving ventilation, universal mask usage, and physical distancing. Finally, we cannot forget vaccination. All of our in school staff are vaccinated, and we urge every parent with a child who is not yet vaccinated, please do it today. I know every parent takes the health of their child very seriously. My guarantee, today, is that we are not relaxing our standards, we're reinforcing them. We owe it to our children to bring all our resources to bear to support schools staying open. We’ve seen what isolation does to all of us, and we know that it impacts our young people even more. We owe it to our children to do everything we can to keep our schools safe, and to keep them open. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of work ahead of us, to ensure that every child is attending a great school, that we’re authentically engaging parents, and serving all of our students regardless of their family's income, or if they have a disability. But today, today I'm thankful that our young people are in school safely. What our public schools do every day, to be very clear, is a miracle. Safely bringing together over one million New Yorkers of all different backgrounds to learn and grow with each other. My commitment to each of them is that I will work with Mayor Adams and every other member of his team to keep these schools safely open. Thank you so much.
Mayor: When a Mayor has swagger, the city has swagger. We've allowed people to beat us down so much that all we did was wallow in COVID. It’s we did, and we no longer believed this is a city of swagger. This is a city of resiliency. And all of these messages out there of what is going to happen? What is going to happen? We're going to survive. And your message, your direct comment, your forcefulness matching yours and matching the rest of ours, we're not going to be defined by COVID, by crime, by economy. And you know why? Because we've went through some stuff. All of us, all of us have went through some stuff. So, this is nothing to those who have gone through a lot. We’re going to be here and turn our city around. That’s why I got so much swagger. We need a Mayor of swagger. We need a Council Woman with swagger. We need Assembly Women with swagger. We need a Borough President with swagger. We need a Chancellor with swagger. We need a Police Commissioner with swagger. This is New York. It's a privilege to live in New York, and the leadership should have that swagger, that's what was what has been missing in this city.