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New York State Education Department's New Guidelines On Mandatory COVID Testing For In-Person Learning Create Confusion For NYC Schools

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There was some confusion regarding new guidelines from New York State on COVID-19 testing for students.

Those new guidelines contradicted New York City public school protocols, but later Wednesday afternoon, the New York State Education Department changed its mind.

Next week, middle schools will join pre-K and elementary schools reopening for in-person learning.

New York City's state-approved reopening plan says children can only participate if they have parent or guardian consent for COVID-19 testing.

But Tuesday, the State Education Department released new guidelines stating schools cannot make testing a requirement for in-person learning.

Watch Mayor De Blasio's Daily COVID Briefing --

"We were surprised," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

So were teachers and their union.

"I don't understand how we finally get clear guidance from the federal government. They say testing has to be an important part of opening school safely, and then the New York State SED comes out and says you can't do it," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

"You're toying with people's life-or-death situations," teacher Lisa O'Connor said.

The UFT released a statement saying, "The Feb. 16 statement by the State Education Department that COVID-19 testing of students cannot be a condition of in-person learning directly contradicts the NYC school reopening plan approved by the state. Mandated testing of staff and students is a key element of the plan that has kept our schools safe. The UFT has received no official notice that NYC's plan is no longer approved. We will fight to make sure these protocols stay in place."

Late Wednesday, after discussions with the city, the SED withdrew its testing memo.

"But to keep changing things or making people uncertain or feel even more anxiety is not helpful," Mulgrew said.

It's especially disheartening for teachers, when regular testing is part of their union's agreement with the city in the school reopening plan.

The positivity rate in schools citywide is 0.55%. CBS2 asked the state Education Department why it originally opposed those testing requirements, but it did not respond.

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