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Editorial: Welcome news for students heading back to school this fall

Some very good news came out of Albany this week when Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state will roll back many remaining COVID-19 protocols for school districts.

Recall that at this time last year, as children headed back to their classrooms, a masking requirement remained in place that many parents considered unnecessary and intrusive. That policy was dropped last spring, in the final months of the school year — and this September, there will be no mask mandate.

Another very big change Ms. Hochul announced this week is that children will no longer have to quarantine if they are exposed to a classmate who tested positive. The priority now is to keep students in classes and not banish them from school because they sat near someone who contracted COVID-19.

“The big news is no more quarantining, no more test-to-stay,” the governor said at a Monday media briefing in New York City. “The days of sending an entire classroom home because one person was symptomatic or tested positive, those days are over.”

As all parents of school-age children know, replacing traditional classroom teaching with remote learning has been highly controversial. Many teachers have also deemed it unsuccessful, especially for the youngest students. On Monday, Ms. Hochul said the interruption of traditional learning has been “devastating.”

Under the new state policy, schools can choose to test for “close contact” activities such as sports like wrestling. That will be a local school district decision, as will the matter of how to respond if a case emerges. 

State COVID-19 policies have been a steady source of fodder for the gubernatorial campaign that pits Ms. Hochul against Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). Mr. Zeldin has also campaigned heavily on the theme that New York State’s COVID-19 policies have contributed to a rising crime rate in many parts of the state.

A recent Sienna College poll has Ms. Hochul 14 points ahead of Mr. Zeldin.