A region in New York can reopen schools in the fall 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, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. If a regional infection rate climbs above 9 percent over a 7-day average after August 1, schools will close. School districts are required to submit a reopening plan to the state by the end of the month with a decision about reopening made during the first week of August.
“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. It’s that simple,” Cuomo said during a press conference Monday.
The state’s Department of Education on Monday 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.
School districts must submit reopening plans to the DOE by July 31, which will be made publicly available. “This framework and the guidance which will follow allows schools to plan for the upcoming school year under three different scenarios that aim to keep our children, educators and school personnel safe and encourages equitable access to high-quality services for all students,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said on Monday in a press release.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week 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.
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.
“Getting our kids back to school successfully and safely is the single biggest part of restarting our city,” de Blasio said. “Parents have spoken clearly – they want their children back in school buildings to the greatest extent possible. Our approach for the fall maximizes in person instruction while protecting health and safety of our students and educators.”
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.
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