Cuomo Sets School Reopening Formula, Guidance Presented

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NEW YORK NOW – New York state has developed a formula to determine if schools will open in regions of the state in the fall, largely dependent on the share of individuals who test positive for the coronavirus in a given area over a two-week period.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that regions will be allowed to reopen schools if, by the first week of August, the infection rate remains below 5% using a 14-day average.

That’s when the state is expected to make a final decision on whether schools will reopen in the state, which may vary by region given Cuomo’s comments Monday. All regions currently qualify to reopen schools under Cuomo’s metric, though that could change by early August.

But if regions are then given permission to reopen schools, then see a spike in cases, they could be forced to close again, Cuomo said.

“Schools will close if the regional infection rate is above 9% on a seven-day average,” Cuomo said.

Schools will also only be allowed to reopen in regions that have reached Phase Four of the state’s reopening by early August. As of Monday, only New York City hadn’t reached Phase Four.

Cuomo, again Monday, railed on President Donald Trump for pressuring states to reopen schools in the fall. He said the state will determine the future of schools in New York without input from the federal government.

“He was wrong on the economic reopening. He’s wrong on the schools reopening,” Cuomo said.

Districts were presented on Monday with guidance from the State Education Department on how to plan for reopening in the fall, when students could return to in-person learning for the first time since March.

The guidance presented Monday will be used by schools to create their own, individual plans for reopening, which are due to the state by the end of the month. Those plans will be used with the latest data on COVID-19 to come to a decision on reopening this fall.

Schools will be required to submit plans that would provide a quality education for students in the fall, while ensuring children and teachers are placed at the lowest risk possible to contracting and spreading the coronavirus.

“It is not a book of mandates. It is a helpful tool. It’s guidance,” said Regents Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown. “It allows for leeway and flexibility.”

Districts will be tasked with coming up with their own, individualized reopening plans over the next two weeks before they’re due to the state on July 31st.

According to the guidance, those plans will have to envision a strategy for maximizing the ability of students to distance themselves from others, while also requiring the use of personal protective equipment. Students and staff will be required to wear masks or face coverings.

Schools should also plan to handle new responsibilities, like screening students and staff for symptoms of the virus. If someone is suspected to have those symptoms, schools must have a space to isolate that person until they’re sent home, according to the guidance.

Students will also be instructed on appropriate hand and respiratory hygiene, according to the presentation, and schools will need to identify a plan to thoroughly disinfect facilities to prevent any spread of the coronavirus.

Those plans will focus on in-school learning, which may not be the exclusive model this fall, school officials said during the presentation.

Schools should be prepared to offer in-person learning, remote learning, and a hybrid of both models. That way, officials said, they’ll have all tools on hand to educate students in all scenarios.

Districts will use the state’s guidance to develop their own plans for reopening, though education officials acknowledged during the presentation Monday that strategies will vary between districts for allowing students back to class.

A separate set of guidelines from Cuomo’s Reimagine Education Advisory Council were also released Monday, and expected to be coupled with those from the State Education Department for districts.