School districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties, along with rest of the state, will be allowed to reopen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this morning. He said he based his decision on low infection rates recorded in every region.
“Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “If there’s a spike in the infection rate, if there’s a matter of concern in the infection rate, we can revisit.”
“If you look at our infection rate, we have the best situation in the country right now as incredible as that seems. We’ve been successful because we’ve been smart and our school guidance is based on that … so if anyone can open schools we can open schools and that’s true for every region in the state.”
The State Education Department is leaving the specifics of how to reopen New York’s 749 school districts to the districts themselves. Districts are empowered to make decisions about what in-person learning will look like, how much remote learning will be offered and how to implement safety protocols.
On July 31, Valley Stream's four school districts submitted their reopening plans to NYSED while simultaneously unveiling them for public viewing. The plans were the result of weeks of planning and collaboration both between the districts and various stakeholders such as students, parents and teachers, with some last minute input from the state on July 16.
All four of Valley Stream's school districts including the Central High School District have indicated that because of space constraints within classrooms, each will adopt a "hybrid" model of instruction, in which half of the student body alternate days between in-person and virtual class time.
“We are giving flexibility to the school districts,” Cuomo said, similar to the state’s phased-in economic reopening, explaining that “there was no one-size fits all” approach then nor is there now.
He emphasized that the communication between school districts and their communities is essential to address concerns of families and teachers. He said he is requiring school districts to post their specific plans on their websites for public review by the end of next week. Specifically, he said these plans must fully detail three “highly questioned” areas: remote learning options, protocols for testing of students and staff and contact tracing plans in a situation where a student or staff member tests positive for Covid-19.
Cuomo is requesting that school districts have ample discussions with parents and staff. “Districts have to communicate with parents,” he said. “Parents need an opportunity to be heard and schools should welcome the opportunity to explain their plans.” He said districts should plan to hold “at least three sessions to give everyone the opportunity to participate between now and Aug. 21.”
“The more communication the better,” Cuomo said, adding that he is also “asking districts to set up at least one discussion with teachers.”
School officials from Valley Stream's three other districts could not be immediately reached for comment as of press time on Friday.
Masks will be mandated and every student will be required to have one with them at all times.