ALBANY, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given schools in New York the go-ahead to reopen for in-person learning this fall.
"By our infection rates, all school districts can open everywhere in the state," Cuomo told reporters during a conference call Friday morning. "Every region is below the threshold that we established... you look at our infection rate we are probably in the best situation in the country right now as incredible as that is so if anybody can open schools, we can open schools."
The governor said officials will continue to watch the infection rate and the decision can be revisited if there's a spike in cases between now and the day that schools are scheduled to open.
All of the state's 749 school districts must submit their reopening plans to the Department of Health for review.
"The Department of Health can disapprove plans if they're not responsible from a health point of view," Cuomo said.
Of the 749 school districts, 127 have yet to submit their plans and an additional 50 are either incomplete or deficient.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker warned this week that “an ill-prepared reopening could put students, staff and parents in peril.”
Cuomo said the local districts will have to address the concerns of teachers and parents who fear schools will be unsafe.
"The local school district has to come up with a plan and they have to deal with their parents and teachers, which is going to be a more complicated issue than I think many of them fully appreciate," the governor said, adding that he will be asking districts to post their remote learning plan and require “discussion sessions” with parents prior this month. “They have to communicate with the parents and explain the plan and answer the questions of the parents."
The governor said parents should know about three key elements: remote learning, testing, and contact tracing.
Prior to the governor's announcement, Mayor Bill de Blasio said three-quarters of New York City parents responding to a Department of Education survey favor some in-classroom learning this fall.
"It will not be easy, but I think most parents feel strongly that even some time in school is a lot better than none," de Blasio said during his daily briefing Friday. "People want to come back, no one underestimates the challenges, but they're New Yorker's — they're tough, they're strong, they're resilient."
If parents opt for full remote learning only, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza warns they will be able to opt-in to in-person blended learning until some time in the future.
De Blasio said if the coronavirus tranmission rate goes above 3% for seven days in the city schools will close.
Masks will be mandatory in schools statewide when social distancing is not possible.
"Every student should plan to have one with them at all times," Cuomo said. "If a student does not have a mask, the school will be required to provide one."
Schools in New York have been closed since mid-March. Many districts have been planning to start the new school year with a blend of in-person and remote learning.