Education

Governor outlines criteria that will determine whether schools can reopen

State education officials have begun to outline what reopening schools may look like as New York emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a press briefing Monday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that school reopening will be based on a formula similar to the one used to guide economic reopening.

“You cannot reopen [schools] if the virus is out of control,” the governor said from Manhattan. “We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

Under the governor’s plan, schools may only reopen if their region is in Phase Four and the daily infection rate remains below 5% on a 14-day average since restrictions were lifted. However, if the virus spikes up to 9% or higher on a seven-day average, schools cannot open. “Then, we hit an emergency stop button,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It’s purely on the numbers. It’s on the science.”

A document published by the state Education Department Monday details the framework schools must address as they begin planning for reopening.

It addresses health and safety, nutrition, social-emotional wellbeing, facilities, transportation, budget issues, technology, special and bilingual education among other issues.

Officials are recommending a number of preventative actions, including health screenings, maximization of school space, using masks and social distancing in schools whenever possible, as well as more frequent cleaning and disinfecting.

School districts must adhere to state guidelines as they develop their own policies, which must be submitted for state review via an online portal between Friday, July 17 and Friday, July 31.

According to the document, districts must create a comprehensive plan that includes in-person instruction, remote learning and a hybrid of both.

The guidance was drafted after four virtual meetings of the state’s school reopening task force and will be formally presented to the state Board of Regents Monday.

Gov. Cuomo Monday reported just 557 new cases of COVID-19 out of 51,687 people tested Sunday.

There were 10 fatalities and hospitalizations dipped to 792, the lowest since March 18. Long Island had the highest rate of transmission at 1.5%, which fluctuates daily.

Mr. Cuomo said the numbers indicate that New York’s phased reopening strategy and mask mandate has worked.

“After the reopening, we expected the numbers to tick up,” he said. “They haven’t. They’ve actually ticked down.”

While good news, Mr. Cuomo said that New York’s progress is threatened by lack of compliance and travelers from out of state.

“We get arrogant, we get cocky. The weather’s warm, the numbers are good,” he said. “But we have to remain compliant.”

Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in 39 other states, Mr. Cuomo said, which is a threat to New York. Florida broke a national record Sunday, reporting the highest single-day increase: 15,299 new COVID-19 cases in any state since the outbreak began.

Earlier this month, Mr. Cuomo announced that states with significant COVID-19 spread must be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in New York. Noncompliance, he said, could lead to another outbreak.

An emergency health order is expected to be issued Monday that will mandate out-of-state travelers from the 19 states on the advisory list to provide officials with their contact information and locations to help enforce the mandatory quarantine.

Mr. Cuomo said it would be enforced at every airport in New York and travelers will be required to fill out the forms or face a criminal summons and $2,000 fine.

“None of this is pleasant, but we’ve gone through this before,” Mr. Cuomo said, referencing millions of European travelers who brought the virus before the pandemic began. “We can’t be in a situation where we have people coming  from other states bringing the virus again.”