New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a Friday press conference that all school districts in the state can reopen after reviewing the continued low infection rate, and touted the state’s success in fighting the coronavirus outbreak, but acknowledged there is “significant anxiety” among teachers and parents in taking this collective step.
Cuomo said because of New York’s continued low infection rate, schools are “all authorized to open,” and “we’re going to watch the infection between now and the day that schools open” in case infection rates spike that would require a rethink on the reopening decision.
Cuomo said schools can reopen if the rate of positive tests in a district is below 5%, while most of New York State has remained at 1% or below over recent weeks.
The decision for each district’s schools to open for in-person learning, however, rests with each individual administration, Cuomo said.
Schools will be required to post their plans online for testing, contact tracing and remote learning, in the event a school decides against resuming in-person instruction.
Cuomo said he understands “significant anxiety” is being experienced by both teachers and parents, and has required schools to have multiple discussions with both groups to address questions and ensure plans are understood.
New York has to “bring the same intelligence to the school reopening that we did with the economic reopening,” Cuomo said, referencing the state’s multi-part reopening plan that has maintained a consistently low infection rate, compared with states in the Sun Belt that have seen coronavirus surge as they reopened.
“Good news. All schools can reopen,” Cuomo said during the press conference. “We have the best infection rates in the country. If any state can do it, we can do it. We’ve been smart from day one.”
1.1 million. That’s how many students are in New York City’s public school system alone, making it the largest district in the U.S.
Prior to Cuomo’s Friday announcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—who famously locks horns with Cuomo over big decisions that impact the five boroughs—said in July that students there would start the academic year September 10 with in-person learning one to three days per week, and remote learning the rest of the time. Meanwhile, nationwide debate has broken out about how and if to reopen schools, with teachers raising concerns about protecting their health and questions about how they can effectively do their jobs amid coronavirus restrictions, such as masks and social distancing. The school year started in late July and early August at districts in Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee. Students and teachers in those districts have already tested positive for coronavirus, forcing hundreds in each group to quarantine. There are 98,000 K-12 public schools across the country, according to Reuters, and getting them reopened is seen as a major contributor to economic recovery.