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Best-in-Country Infection Rate Means Schools Can Reopen, Governor Says

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 14:59
James Crenshaw is the principal at East Hampton High School, which will reopen in some form in September after Governor Cuomo gave schools the green light on Friday.
Durell Godfrey

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact all walks of life, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday gave schools in New York State the green light to reopen, pending approval of their individual education plans and the scheduling of open comment sessions with parents and teachers.

All regions in the state, Governor Cuomo said, have an infection rate below 5 percent -- the threshold at which schools would be allowed to reopen. But there is no "one size fits all" solution to school reopening, he said, so specific decisions and policies must be maintained by the individual districts.

Many districts here are still awaiting final enrollment decisions from families before plans can be finalized, and many families were waiting for Governor Cuomo to announce his decision.

"Look at our infection rate," he said during a press call on Friday. "We are probably in the best situation in the country right now, as incredible as that is. If anyone can open schools, we can open schools."

School districts in East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Springs, Montauk, and Amagansett all submitted their plans by the initial July 31 deadline, and Wainscott and Sagaponack received one-week extensions.

There was some confusion earlier in the week over whether it is the responsibility of schools to coordinate testing of students who are showing symptoms of Covid-19. Governor Cuomo is now mandating that districts break out their testing, contact tracing, and remote learning policies and post them publicly.

"Testing has been part of many districts' plans, and it is required" for symptomatic students, Jim Malatras, director of state operations, said.

The governor announced that school districts must plan three public comment sessions with parents (the "big five" districts, including New York City and Rochester, must hold five) and one session with teachers before Aug. 21.

The state's Department of Health can swoop in and declare a school district's plan incomplete or inadequate. Without an approved path forward, Governor Cuomo said, a school district will not be allowed to reopen.

"We've been smart from day one," he said. "We do the masks, we do the social distancing . . . we can bring the same level of intelligence to the school reopening that we brought to the economic reopening."

Inquiries have been made with local school officials to gauge their responses to Governor Cuomo's announcement. 

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