Schools file reopening plan with Cuomo


By Patsy Nicosia

That sound you heard if you listened closely Friday?
It was 650 school districts across New York State hitting “send” on their plans for how they’ll reopen in September.
Schools switched to virtual learning in mid-March after Governor Andrew Cuomo shut them down in an effort to help flatten the curve on New York’s COVID-19 numbers.
Even as that worked—the state’s numbers are among the best in the country—cases are skyrocketing elsewhere and despite the work they put into developing the plans, some administrators are giving any in-person reopening a 50-50 chance of happening.
Local schools have been having virtual meetings on the plan with teachers and staff and are posting their plans on their websites.
Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School Superintendent Carl Mummenthey called C-R’s plan a “living, breathing document,” subject to change, and Sharon Springs Central School Superintendent Pat Green agreed.
“This is what we have now,” Mr. Green said Friday. “It’s the best plan we could come up with for our kids. Will it change as the situation changes? Absolutely.”
Schools got their first look at what they needed to include in their plan—three plans, really: one for in-person instruction, one for remote, and one that combines both--on July 13.
Governor Cuomo said then he’ll make his decision on whether schools can reopen the first week of August, likely be on a region-by-region basis.
Specifically, Governor Cuomo said, a region must be in phase 4 of reopening—all of New York’s are—and then have a daily COVID infection rate of less than five percent; again, all of the state’s regions meet that criteria.
If a region’s infection rate rises to nine percent on a rolling average, all schools in it will “hit the emergency stop button,” Governor Cuomo said in July.
“If you have the virus under control, reopen. If you don’t have the virus under control, then you can’t reopen. We’re not going to use our children as a litmus test. And we are not going to put our children in a place where their health is threatened, It’s that simple.”
Though Saturday, Governor Cuomo seemed to suggest he was reconsidering his reopening plans, Sunday he stressed they’re still on track.
“Our virus infection rate is very low,” he said.
“If it stays there, the end of the week, I’m going to say schools can reopen if they have a smart plan in place. The alternative is keep the schools closed and that also raises real problems.”
But just because schools put out a plan,” Governor Cuomo said, doesn’t mean students—or even teachers—will come; that will be the real determining factor.”
The mixed messages are frustrating, SSCS Principal Tom Yorke told parents in a Zoom meeting to hear their concerns Wednesday.
“We find out what’s happening by reading it in the news.”
In addition to Governor Cuomo’s criteria for reopening, the state’s Board of Regents and Education Department have issued their own guidelines requiring mandatory masks, daily health checks, and improved ventilation and air filtration systems.
The State Health Department has also been working on rules.