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Gov. Cuomo: Schools In Phase 4 Regions Allowed To Reopen Under Certain Conditions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Schools on Long Island and in the Mid-Hudson region will likely reopen in September, based on new guidance announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

The governor said if, by August 1, a region is in Phase 4 and has a daily infection rate of less than five percent over a two week period, schools can reopen.

New York City is the only region in the state still in Phase 3. So, school leaders are planning for a multitude of scenarios, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported.

Will the doors will stay closed at the Harlem Link Charter School for grades pre-K through 5 this September?

Plans are in the works for virtual learning, but there are also plans for in-person classes, and others for a little bit of both.

While they are still filling seats in the younger grades, co-founders Steve Evangelista and Margaret Ryan are brainstorming September's setup.


"We're expecting to open with blended learning, but ready to snap back to virtual learning if we have to," said Evangelista.

Thousands of school leaders have until July 31 to submit plans to the state.

On Monday, Cuomo announced guidelines that must be followed:

  • Implementing screening, including daily temperature checks to monitor symptoms for students and staff.
  • Six feet of separation, including reconfiguring gyms and community spaces.
  • Masks and PPE must be worn by students and staff when they cannot social distance.

The governor said schools can require face coverings during instruction.

"Schools should cohort students to limit potential exposure and better contain any potential infection," said Cuomo.

Cuomo also said he is taking into consideration the ability of schools to install air filtration systems in deciding how many days kids can be in their classrooms.

RELATED STORY: Cuomo Says Malls Can Reopen In Phase 4 Regions If They Have Enhanced Air Filtration Systems In Place

Schools will close if the virus spikes in the region and the infection rate is above nine percent on a seven day average, he said.

Watch Gov. Cuomo's Daily Press Briefing:

Monica Chestnut, a mother, told CBS2 she still wants her 5th grader learning virtually for the first few months, even if the city reaches Phase 4.

"It's great on paper, in theory. But I need to see it play out and how it will look," said Chestnut.

"We have co-teaching in most of our classrooms, so we can have one teacher in each classroom just do remote learning," said Evangelista.

"We really need in-person instruction, particularly for special needs, for kids in foster care, kids who fell behind during the distance learning that didn't go well," said David Bloomfield, a professor of education at CUNY Graduate Center.

Andy Pallotta, president of the New York teachers union, released a statement:

"As we've said throughout this process, health and safety of students, families, educators and other school staff, and equitable access to a high-quality education must be the top priorities in reopening schools. What we've heard from Gov. Cuomo, Chancellor Rosa and the Board of Regents has us moving in the right direction. The fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening outlined today stands in stark contrast to the reckless approach that some other states and the federal government are trying to ram through. We will review in detail the final state health and educational guidance to ensure it does indeed balance the educational needs of our students with the advice of health care experts. But make no mistake, for schools to reopen the right way — with health, safety and equity in mind — we know that federal and state funding will absolutely be necessary. State guidance may be the road map for districts, their school staff and their families to work on reopening plans that are right for their communities, but nobody should be discounting the need for the resources to actually pull safe, equitable reopening off."

Districts throughout the country have debated when and how to reopen, mapping out plans for social distancing in classrooms and school buses and weighing whether to require teachers and students to wear face coverings.

With new coronavirus cases on the rise throughout the country, several districts in other states have announced plans to continue distance learning online, either exclusively or as part of a mix that includes limited in-person classes.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week announced such a hybrid plan for the nation's largest district that would put most students inside their physical schools just two or three days a week. Schools can't accommodate all their students and maintain safe social distancing, he said.

A spokesperson for the city said it is on track to enter Phase 4 and meet the governor's requirements to reopen schools in September. The spokesperson said the city will require social distancing, face coverings and enhanced cleaning when school returns.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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