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When New York City students and teachers say their farewells Wednesday, they’ll close the books on a school year marked by curriculum changes, political strife, and budget woes.

And when they return for the first day of school on Sept. 5, the new year will hold similar promise as well as uncertainty.

At Chalkbeat, we have covered all the twists and turns. Some of the major struggles of the last academic year came as little surprise to educators and families. Elementary school teachers in nearly half of the city’s 32 local school districts were still adjusting to the new mandated literacy curriculums. Educators still grappled with how to best serve the thousands of new migrant students entering the system. And advocates braced for fights over budget cuts, as one-time federal COVID stimulus funding evaporated.

Other challenges were not necessarily on anyone’s bingo card. The city’s decision to cut chicken tenders, cookies, dumplings and other popular food items from the cafeteria menu because too many kids were eating these fan favorites came as a surprise and was eventually reversed after much outcry. The rise of ChatGPT caught the Education Department off guard and was initially blocked on school devices, before schools Chancellor David Banks reconsidered his approach to the emerging technology. And few would have predicted the tense climate school communities are now facing because of the Israel-Hamas war, as antisemitism and Islamophobia seem to be on the rise.

As this year comes to a close, here’s what you need to know for next school year.

We want to hear from you: What should be on our radar as we plan for the fall? Email us at or fill out this form.

Calendar watch: Notable dates for the New York City 2024-25 school year

As usual, school is starting the Thursday after Labor Day, but unlike many school years, there are no other days off in September. (Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which follows a lunar calendar, 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), known as the “festival of lights,” and observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists.

Schools will have a one-day week before winter break — unless a 12-year-old can force the Education Department to reconsider. School is in session on Monday, Dec. 23, before closing the next day through the following Wednesday (Jan. 1, 2025). Previously when Dec. 23 fell on a Monday, the city ultimately made it a day off.

Also, next June will have one fewer day off than this year: Eid al-Adha falls on June 5, which is already a day off for “Anniversary Day.” The following day, Friday, June 6, is a “clerical day,” meaning no classes for most students except those in 6-12 and high schools.

Curriculum mandates could see more pushback from families and teachers

Next school year will be the first that all of the city’s local school districts will adopt the literacy curriculum mandate, the centerpiece of Banks’ education agenda. As this initiative expands, more pushback could bubble up. Already one school has won a waiver to get out of the mandate.

Meanwhile, the city is now turning its attention to implementing math curriculum mandates for middle schools and expanding its mandate for ninth grade algebra in high schools.

A school cell phone ban could be on the horizon

Not only has Gov. Kathy Hochul said she’s considering a statewide school cell phone ban, Banks has also been getting feedback from New York City principals, who have overwhelmingly told him they’d like a citywide policy banning phones.

But the details of a ban are critical as to whether it will help reconnect students with their schoolwork — and each other, according to results of a Chalkbeat survey. Most schools across the five boroughs already have bans in place, but they differ dramatically. There’s no foolproof system, educators, parents, and students say, and whatever policy is ultimately passed will have to address not only the logistics but also the concerns of parents, who are often prime offenders of contacting kids during the school day.

Regents exams may soon be optional for a NY high school diploma

State education officials are overhauling high school graduation requirements that will make Regents exams optional. They plan to release a more detailed plan in November outlining how schools can implement the changes.

Though the exams aren’t going away, students will be able to choose from a menu of options to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in seven key areas: critical thinking, effective communication, cultural and social-emotional competences, innovative problem solving, literacy across content areas, and status as a “global citizen.”

One model, already in place at nearly 40 high schools that have waivers for Regents exams other than English, focuses more on project-based learning with “performance-based” assessments.

Budget cuts could force schools to do more with less

The nation’s largest school system has been bracing for impact as more than $7 billion in federal aid to the Education Department expires this summer. With that uncertainty comes whiplash, with proposed cuts followed by subsequent funding restorations.

Mayor Eric Adams ultimately decided to prop up the budgets of hundreds of schools that have struggled with declining enrollment since the pandemic. Still, city officials did not say whether schools will avoid cuts in the middle of the school year if the number of students who enroll is lower than anticipated, a practice that was paused during the pandemic but returned this school year.

Amy Zimmer is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat New York. Contact Amy at