State to Ask School Districts for September Reopening Plans

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New York State will be issuing guidelines to education officials by early June to help school leaders devise plans for a September reopening should in-person classes resume this fall.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that districts will then have until sometime in July to submit the plan, which would have to be approved by the state.

The governor said it would be premature to speculate whether in-school classes will resume for the start of the 2020-21 school year or what the next academic year may look like this far in advance.

“As the facts keep changing, prudence dictates that you don’t make a decision until it’s timely so you have the best current facts to make a decision,” Cuomo said.

Of prime concern is the COVID-19-related illness that has been spotted in children, mainly in the elementary and middle school grades, before any determination can be made. There are now 157 cases of pediatric multi system inflammatory syndrome now under investigation by the state. Persistent fever, severe abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea, skin rash and chest pains that causes inflammation and possible damage to the heart have been reported.

Cases of the syndrome, which has some of the same symptoms as Kawasaki disease, have now been identified in 25 states, plus Washington, D.C., and 13 countries.

“This inflammatory syndrome is more frightening than COVID respiratory illness in some ways because it affects the heart,” Cuomo said. “We know it exists; we don’t know how widespread it is yet.”

Local school officials have been bracing for the possibility of a continuation of remote learning or using it in conjunction with far fewer students reporting to school to maintain proper social distance.

Also, on Thursday, Cuomo announced that there would be no in-person summer school classes this year. Any summer instruction will continue to be through remote learning, he said.

No Word on Camps

The state is also seeking to come up with workable guidelines for summer day camps, said Budget Director Robert Mujica. There have been protocols for operation of day care facilities, he said, but those couldn’t be completely adapted for camps.

“Right now, with this new population and the new number of cases, which are increasing every day, before we go ahead and say we want to open more places where children can congregate, we want to make sure you can do it and mitigate it in the guidelines,” Mujica said.

While Mujica left open hope that safe guidelines can be developed, Cuomo sounded less optimistic, particularly with so many unknowns surrounding the pediatric inflammatory syndrome.

“As a parent, until I know how widespread this is, I would not send my children to day camp, and if I can’t send my children to day camp, I wouldn’t ask anybody else to send their children to day camp,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Local Metrics Remain Steady

The Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester and Putnam, reported a steady number of deaths on the three-day rolling average.

That category, along with having the required number of contact tracers, remains the only hurdles preventing the local area from entering a Phase I reopening.

Through Wednesday, the seven-county region had six consecutive days of declining COVID-19 deaths and seven deaths. Either 14 consecutive days of declines or less than five deaths on average would comply with the state regulations.

On Wednesday, there were 105 deaths statewide but only 246 new COVID-19-related hospitalizations, the lowest since the earliest days of the crisis in mid-March, according to the state Department of Health.

In Westchester, there were an additional eight deaths, pushing the death toll to 1,313, while Putnam remained steady at 58 deaths.

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