BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – The New York State Education Department and Department of Health released separate guidelines for reopening schools on Monday. Schools have been waiting for guidance from state authorities as they scramble to assemble reopening plans before the start of the upcoming school year in September.
Windsor Superintendent Jason Andrews said part of the challenge school districts have faced in crafting their plans is due to the sometimes conflicting guidelines they have received from national health and education officials.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends students are seated six feet apart within classrooms, while the American Academy of Pediatrics said evidence suggests students can be as close as three feet apart.
“That’s a big difference in a classroom, so which do you follow?” Andrews said.
Andrews said it was critical school districts received a cohesive set of guidelines before their reopening plans are due to state officials on July 31.
Both sets of guidance advise that school districts create plans for both in-person, remote and hybrid models of instruction.
Since schools moved instruction online in March, parents and teachers have been looking for answers about the upcoming school year. However, without state guidance, Andrews said school officials had few answers to offer.
“Although people are understanding, and the nature of this situation is evolving and changes, after a while, they want some answers,” Andrews said. “It’s really difficult when you can rarely provide good answers for them.”
The New York Education Department presented its reopening framework to the Board of Regents on Monday. A finalized version of the guidance is expected on Wednesday.
The guidance from the New York Department of Health was released in part with the Reimagine Education Advisory Council, composed of parents, teachers and education leaders from around the state. Schools must comply with and affirm their outlined procedures as they craft their reopening plans.
According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state will determine whether schools in each region will reopen for the fall during the first week of August. To qualify, regions must be in phase four and maintain a daily infection rate of five percent or lower over a 14-day average.