School buildings in the Five Towns and across New York will remain closed through the end of the school year – officially June 30 in the state – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on May 1, two weeks days before his previous extension was to elapse.
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade will continue with the remote learning programs school districts and schools put in place since mid-March when the initial closing was announced because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo’s announcement came as Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue a steady decline, but the state is still seeing nearly a 1,000 new cases a day, which he said was unacceptably high.
For the first time in weeks, the number of overnight deaths dropped below 300 from Thursday into Friday — from 306 to 289, a 5.5 percent decline. New hospitalizations were also down.
The governor said social distancing practices, as mandated by the state, have prevented an estimated 100,000 Covid-19 cases, which he said would have overrun the hospitals and caused many more deaths.
“Our past actions changed the past trajectory,” he said. Today’s actions will determine “the number of sick tomorrow,” he said — hence the need to keep school buildings closed and continue social distancing.
Lawrence School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said, “It’s the safest path for our students and staff. We will continue to offer excellence to students through distance learning.”
In a message to the school community she said: “The governor has just announced that school in NY will remain closed through June. Lawrence will continue our distance learning and we look forward to students making academic progress while staying healthy and safe. Students, please [take] care of your academic, physical and mental health as we move through this crisis. Stay strong, you are Lawrence.”
Dr. Ralph Marino Jr., superintendent of the Hewlett-Woodmere School District said: “Given the need to keep all New Yorkers safe and healthy, we understand the governor's decision to extend the school closure through the end of the academic year. Our staff stands ready to continue to support students through remote learning.”
Noting that the closure is “heartbreaking for all students, but particularly the members of the Class of 2020,” Marino said that the district is looking into ways “to celebrate graduations and other milestones in new ways.” “We hope that our students and staff are able to experience wonderful memories with their families during this difficult time,” he added.
Lawrence Woodmere Academy Headmaster Brian O’Connell who came onboard as the pandemic was beginning in March said the governor made the right call. “Given the uncertain time we’re in it makes to make a decision that ensures children are safe and healthy. Just knowing that school is terminating gives people the opportunity to see the immediate future with some degree of clarity. We will continue to teach our normal academic year at this time.”
LWA’s remote learning will continue through the end of the school year O’Connell said, and a summer learning program is expected to be rolled out in two weeks, he added. The online program will also be open to any students in grades three through 12, for what O’Connell said would be a “reasonable rate.” He added that a Mommy and Me program is also in the works.
“We are disappointed that we not opening school, but we will be carrying on with our online learning program and look forward to September,” said Brandeis School Executive Director Reuben Maron.
The governor said colleges and school districts across New York must begin developing reopening plans, which must be approved by state officials. The governor added there was no determination yet whether there would be summer school. That announcement would be made in the coming weeks.