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Success Academy, NYC’s largest charter network, announces move to remote learning amid coronavirus concerns

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz
Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz
Alex Zimmerman/Chalkbeat

Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter network, announced it will move to remote learning next week, a move that will affect 18,000 students across 45 schools.

Students will be off Monday through Wednesday next week while educators prepare to teach lessons remotely. Students will resume their coursework on Thursday. There are no confirmed coronavirus cases at the charter network.

“We know some families will have trouble getting childcare, and we regret that there is not a solution that meets everyone’s needs,” Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “But the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and evolving rapidly. The safety of scholars and staff, as well as the larger community, is our paramount concern.”

Success is the first major charter network to announce plans to shut down its physical schools — an especially significant decision as state tests are approaching this month. The charter network is notoriously demanding in its preparations for the tests, and typically post impressive results. The state has not announced plans to cancel the tests, but federal officials said it would allow closed schools not to give state tests.

Shortly after the Success announcement, Democracy Prep announced it would close its 12 New York schools beginning Friday and move to remote learning through April 19. The network serves 4,200 students locally.

According to federal guidance, all schools must adapt their remote learning plans for students with disabilities, a group that may be particularly hard hit by closures since certain therapies and services may not be provided.

Generally, Success has a reputation for being hard-nosed on school closure decisions. Its move to remote learning will likely ratchet up pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to close the city’s district schools, which serve roughly a million children.

The mayor seems to be increasingly isolated in his decision to keep school open, as other public officials have been calling for closures, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

Success officials said students would use a combination of digital tools to keep up with their studies, including Google Classroom and a video conference system “for teacher-led lessons.” Success Academy students receive Chromebooks, essentially pared down laptops, starting in the fourth grade.

Younger students are being sent home with books and teachers “will be in regular daily communication with both parents and children.”

Asked about families without internet access, Success said most families at least have smartphones and would receive instructions on how to use them as WiFi hotspots.

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