Schools cleared to open in all New York regions

August 7, 2020

Every school district in New York can open in September for-in person instruction, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday. Last month, the governor said schools can open in a region if it is in phase four of reopening and if the daily infection rate remains at or below 5 percent over a 14-day average. If the infection rate spikes above 9 percent over a 7-day average, schools will close, Cuomo said.

“By our infection rates, all school districts can open everywhere in the state,” Cuomo said Friday. “Every region is below the threshold that we established.”

The state is requiring all 749 school districts to post online their plans for remote learning and for a test and trace program by the end of next week. School districts must also set up between three and five discussions with parents before August 21 to gather feedback.

The state’s Department of Education last month unveiled its preliminary guidelines for school districts, which does not include a “one size fits all” model for reopening. All plans must be flexible and possibly include a hybrid model of both in-person and remote learning.

The framework, created by the Regional School Reopening Task Force as well as hundreds of experts and parents, students, teachers, and stakeholders, focuses on a number of health and safety measures including health checks, social distancing plans, isolation of anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, hygiene protocols, mandatory face coverings, and a cleaning and disinfection plan that meets CDC recommendations.

The state said schools may “expand their physical footprint or change the way they utilize space” in order to maintain social distance. Plus, schools should meet or exceed ventilation requirements, under the guidelines. Buses will be seen as “an extension of the classroom” and will be required to be regularly disinfected. Staff and students will have to wear masks and maintain social distance on the bus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month a preliminary plan to reopen New York City schools in the fall if data continues to trend downward. The plan involves a “blended learning” model with students receiving a mix of remote and in-person instruction.

Last week, de Blasio said schools will not reopen for in-person instruction if the positive infection rates reach 3 percent on a 7-day average, stricter measures than the state put forth. The city’s daily indicators have remained below 3 percent since June 10, according to NY1.

The city also announced plans for a dedicated team of contact tracers to investigate cases of the virus in schools, a measure pushed for by the United Federation of Teachers. The union, according to Chalkbeat NY, is also calling for a nurse in every school and adequate protective gear.

NYC, home to the largest public school system in the country with 1.1 million students, closed schools for in-person learning in mid-March as a result of the pandemic. The city has provided grab-and-go meals to students, opened enrichment centers to serve children of first responders and healthcare workers, and distributed 300,000 iPads to students without access to devices.

President Donald Trump and his administration have pushed for schools to reopen, arguing that children often show no or mild symptoms when infected with the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release reopening guidelines for schools this week after previously suggesting a full reopening poses the “highest risk” for the spread of the virus.


Editor’s note 8/7/20: This post was originally published on July 13, 2020, but has since been updated with new information on the reopening of New York schools.

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