State Sets Parameters for the Reopening of Schools in September

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Schools across New York State will reopen for the 2020-21 academic year if the region where they are located is in Phase 4 and has a daily infection of less than 5 percent on a 14-day rolling average.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced Monday that if a regional infection rate increases to more than 9 percent on a seven-day average after Aug. 1, then schools would be shut.

He provided those standards on whether schools in the state’s roughly 700 public school districts will reopen at the same time that the state Board of Regents and state Education Department officials provided guidelines on how school districts would accomplish a reopening.

Each district now has a two-week period to submit its reopening plan starting this Friday and extending through July 31. The determination on whether a region’s schools are in line to reopen will be made during the first week in August, the governor said.

Cuomo insisted that the decision whether or not to reopen will be based exclusively on data, not emotion or political posturing.

“We’re not going to use our children as the 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 in a thinly-veiled rebuke to comments from President Donald Trump who insisted that all schools throughout the United States must reopen.

“Common sense and intelligence can still determine what we do, even in this crazy environment. We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

On Sunday, the seven-county Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester and Putnam counties, stood at a 0.8 percent infection rate. The daily tracker has seen the region remain in a narrow range of between 0.6 percent and 1.4 percent each day since June 5, according to the state’s website, which has been tracking the statistics for each of New York’s 10 regions.

As of July 12, the highest infection rate in the state by region was Long Island at 1.5 percent.

Cuomo said the Reimagine Education Advisory Council comprised of educators through the state devised a set of guidelines, which was also on unveiled on Monday.

Some of the broad guidelines will require districts to submit flexible and innovative plans; to enact safeguards to protect the health and safety of students and staff by requiring the use of masks and social distancing; prioritize in-person learning for the students who need it most; maximize use of available space in the school buildings as well as elsewhere in the community in hopes of having as much in-person learning as possible; focus on labs, art and other classes where in-person learning is most important; and establish best practices for hybrid and remote learning and collaboration between districts.

There are also guidelines for transportation, food service, afterschool care and extracurricular activities along with requirements for screening and tracing and cleaning of facilities.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta applauded the intention of the state to predicate reopening and the guidelines on science and facts.

“What we’ve heard from Gov. Cuomo, Chancellor Rosa and the Board of Regents has us moving in the right direction,” Pallotta said. “The fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening outlined today stands in stark contrast to the reckless approach that some other states and the federal government are trying to ram through. We will review

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