Governor to make school announcement on Friday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2020 at 5:33 pm

Cuomo says each district needs to include parent, teacher input in reopening plans

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will make a much-anticipated announcement on Friday whether schools will have the option of reopening for in-person classes this fall.

The governor has said one threshold for reopening will be a region’s positive testing rate can’t exceed 5 percent. Statewide and in the Finger Lakes Region the rate has been about 1 percent.

If schools reopen, Cuomo has said the state will close schools for in-person classes if the positive testing rate hits 9 percent later in the school year.

“We’re not going to open any school unless the viral transmission rate says we have the virus under control,” Cuomo said today on a conference call with reporters. “If the viral transmission rate increases significantly then we will close the schools but there is more to this equation than just the viral transmission rate.”

The governor said the rate varies across the state, and not all regions have the same opinions from teachers and parents about reopening.

“Just as you see the situation in schools across the country has variation, the situation across the state there are variations,” he said.

Parents will ultimately decide whether to send their children to school, Cuomo said. School districts should be actively engaging parents in the discussion of reopening schools.

“if the teachers say ‘I’m not coming back’ or the parents say ‘I’m not sending my child,’ then whatever the school district says is irrelevant,” Cuomo said. “And I field calls from teachers and parents all day long. I’m telling you, they have significant questions.”

The governor said parents and teachers are concerned as they watch other schools open in the country and then see Covid-19 outbreaks.

“So I once again say to our 700 school districts across the state, please be consulting and communicating with the parents and the teachers because they are the vital stakeholders,” he said. “Not only are they vital stakeholders, they are the ultimate determination. So please, be consulting with them. Talk to them because if they’re not comfortable with the plan nothing is actually going to counteract their feelings. If a teacher doesn’t show up, you can’t open the class. If the parent doesn’t send their child, there is no child to educate.”

School superintendents say districts need more funding to meet safety requirements, precautions against Covid-19

The New York State Council of School Superintendents issued a statement today in anticipation of the governor’s announcement. The superintendents said engaging with parents, teachers and other stakeholders “is a standard operating procedure for New York’s public schools.”

The superintendents said they regularly consult with the community in how schools are run, including with the annual budget vote.

“Work on reopening plans required superintendents to quickly become knowledgeable on entirely new health and safety topics, and to lead boards and other stakeholders to a common understanding of facts, requirements, options, and the reality that seldom could any one choice satisfy everyone,” the group said.

The districts all were required reopening plans to the state last Friday, and those plans needed to include safety precautions for in-person classes and how the district would offer remote learning.

“Now superintendents and their colleagues must work to assure that all the pieces are in place to fulfill what has been planned—assigning teachers and other staff, configuring classrooms, planning bus routes, acquiring personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, assuring support for students with the greatest needs, and more,” the superintendents said. “And all this must be done with one more overhanging strand of uncertainty—how will it be funded, especially with the threat of massive state aid cuts if Washington does not come through with the supports that schools and states must receive?”

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