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New York schools to reopen this fall with COVID requirements

Eileen Buckley

Go. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that New York public schools will be able to reopen this fall.

“Everyone wants to reopen the schools,” he said during his briefing. “I want to reopen the schools, everybody wants to reopen the schools.”

While schools across the state may have the green light, it comes with several stipulations.

Credit twitter.com/NYGovCuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Twitter and during an in-person briefing that the state's schools will be allowed to reopen under specific guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Schools can only reopen if their region is in Phase Four of the state’s reopening plan and the daily infection rate remains 5% or lower over a 14-day average through August. Students and teachers will also have to wear face masks any time they are not able to maintain social distance.

The state has also provided guidance on how to adjust facilities, school busses and air ventilation and filtration to minimize risk for students and staff.

The New York State Education Department released guidance for schools to reference when planning to reopen–whether in-person, online or a hybrid. Schools have until July 31 to submit a plan to the state.

To expedite the process of clearing schools to reopen, Cuomo said a committee will review each school’s plans and will begin rolling out clearances Aug. 1. However, schools will have to close if their regional infection rate is greater than 9% during a seven-day average at any point going forward.

“We’re not going to use our children as a litmus test and we’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is in danger,” Cuomo said.

Some Regents expressed concerns over keeping track of some students who are partially or fully learning remotely so that they do not fall through the cracks. Regent Judith Chin, who is from Queens, said there have been reports of chronic absenteeism among some students in New York City’s 2020 remote summer school program.

“These are the ones that I’m most concerned about, because they are lost in the system,” Chin said, “and the repercussions, the implications, are tremendous for these students.”

Regent Frances Wills, who lives in the Hudson Valley, said the guidance does not address one very important component: adequate child care for students who may be attending school just two or three days each week. She said she knows the Regents don’t have control over that, but it will greatly affect working parents and teachers with children.

“I know this is almost impossible for us to manage,” said Wills, who added that the Regents should try to connect child care providers with parents to avoid an “intractable” situation.

The recommendations from the governor and the education department come as a new poll finds New Yorkers are cautiously optimistic about school reopenings this fall. Siena College Research Institute Director Don Levy said 46% believe it is somewhat likely that schools will be open, but just 18% are confident that it is very likely that schools will open their doors in September.

“There’s a hopefulness that we are going to have schools open,” Levy said, “but really, we only have one out of five who think it is very likely to happen.”

Nearly two-thirds of those asked believe New York has not yet seen the end of the virus and the worst is yet to come.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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