Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday all schools in New York State can plan to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year since with infection rates across the state are below the required threshold.
“We are probably in the best situation in the country,” the governor told reporters on a conference call. “If anybody can open school, we can open schools. This is just great news.”
The announcement has only cleared the first hurdle towards reopening. If schools’ reopening plans do not pass health department review, they will still not be permitted to reopen in the fall, Cuomo said.
Cuomo also announced that a “deluge” of calls from concerned parents and teachers have prompted him to require schools to submit detailed plans for three key areas by next week: remote learning, COVID testing, and contact tracing.
“I have been deluged with calls from parents and teachers and there is a significant level of anxiety and concern,” he said, emphasizing that the most important stakeholders in schools are the parents, who represent the students, and teachers.
“This is not really a bureaucratic decision,” he added.
Schools will be required to submit and post online plans that address potential educational inequity caused by online learning, logistics with COVID testing including whether students will be quarantined while awaiting results and how teachers can access tests, and logistics with contact tracing.
In addition, all school districts are now required to host at least three discussion sessions with parents and one discussion session with teachers before August 21.
Citing the need to accommodate parents’ busy schedules with multiple opportunities to participate, Cuomo said, “The more dialogue, the better.”
Most of the 749 school districts statewide have submitted their reopening plans to the Department of Health and State Education Department, with just 127 not yet submitting plans and 50 being incomplete or deficient, requiring further revision.
Despite criticism that the state was leaving most of the difficult decision-making to individual school districts, Cuomo said a one-size-fits-all approach could not occur with a state as diverse as New York.
“If it works for the district, it works,” he said. “If it works for the parents, it works. I’m not going to tell them what to do.”