New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed guidelines for public schools to safely reopen with coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the upcoming fall semester.

Schools will be permitted to reopen assuming their region has reached phase four and their daily infection rate stands at 5 percent or lower. They will be forced to close if rates increase above 9 percent over a 7-day average after August 1. Districts are required to send their reopening plans by July 31 and the state will make their clearing decisions throughout the first week of August.

“If you have the virus under control, reopen. If you don’t have the virus under control, then you can’t reopen,” Cuomo stated. “We’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is endangered. We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

Specific procedures pertaining to authorized schools will be based on the districts themselves, though essential guidelines that cover health and safety, nutrition, well-being, facilities, transportation, budget, attendance, schedules, as well as education protocols were released today by the state Education Department.

Students and staff of authorized schools will be required to wear personal protective equipment when social distancing cannot be kept. Face masks will be recommended at all times, though factors including meals, socially distant breaks, and safely expanded classroom instructions are likely to result in exceptions. 

Realigning learning spaces, including using gyms and other community locations, in efforts to maximizing social distancing protocols, as well establishing cohort structures are both preferred. 

Masks will be required to be worn on buses, with social distance rules intact. Meals may be served in classrooms along with the cafeteria if space is limited. Aftercare and extracurricular programs will be planned by the districts themselves, as long as they follow state procedures.

Screening, including daily temperature checks, will be performed on every student and staff member entering the school building with tracing required and potential closure procedures ready. All exposed areas must be disinfected on a frequent basis.

While New York COVID-19 infection rates remain stable at the moment, a potential lack of compliance as well as outside travel both remain concerns for the governor. 

“All our numbers are good,” he said. “The bad news is we have to keep them that way.”

-With Dana Chieuh

Related Story: Cuomo Says Decision On Schools Coming In August

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