Governor Cuomo on School Re-Opening: Data-Driven State Guidance, Local Input and Many Unanswered Questions

Governor Cuomo has emphasized and re-emphasized; pandemic decisions will be made by the governor, including decisions on school re-openings

“The state law governing schools and business closings or openings has been in effect since the pandemic first started and all such decisions are made by state government and not local government. Of course the state consults with local stakeholders and when it comes to opening schools in New York City we will consult with parents, teachers, health officials and local elected officials – but the Governor has said any determination is premature at this point and we will need to see how the virus develops.

. The Governor hopes schools will reopen but will not endanger the health of students or teachers, and will make the determination once we have more current information.

(Governor Cuomo Communications Director, 7/2/20)

This morning Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza released a list of specific details relating to New York City school re-opening.

The New York Times (here) and other news outlets (here) quickly reported the New York City plans

Later in the morning Governor Cuomo held his regularly scheduled presser, and made it clear, abundantly clear, that the decisions will be made by the governor.

The governor will release guidance by July 13th, school districts will submit school re-opening plans by July 31st and the governor will make a final decision “the first week in August.” Watch the governor’s press conference here.

Other states have already issued plans, see California’s plan, “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Re-Opening of California Schools,” (here).

Kansas schools are re-opening in-person, with trepidation, (see here), Alabama schools will leave the decisions to local school districts, with parent options for in-person, remote or blended models (see here).

The American Academy of Pediatrics also issued guidance,  “COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-Entry” (see here).

President Trump and USDOE Secretary de Voss “order” to school districts to return to in-person classes is being widely ignored by states.

At this morning’s press conference Governor Cuomo made it clear that these decisions are constitutionally within the domain of the states.

Cuomo explained, that data will drive school re-opening decisions and the decisions may vary across the state, the staged re-openings of businesses varied from region to region.  What he did not address is contagion rates across the city (See COVID rates by NYC zip code here). Could there be different “rules” for schools in different zip codes?  Unlikely

A key factor is the contagion rate, usually referred to as “R Naught,” or “R Zero;” if the contagion rate is less than one (R<1) the contagion rate is declining and the lower the R number, for example if R<.5, or R<.25, the contagion rate is continuing to decline; for my wonky readers see here.

While the New York City Plan must meet the State Guidance (due July 13th) I didn’t see anything in the plan that might conflict with the State, the school district plans are due by July 31st  See entire NYC Plan here and School Scheduling Options here.
The NYC Plan, at this point, lacks specificity:

  • Will all adult entry to the building require a temperature check?
  • Will all adults in the building require COVID-testing?
  • What are the protocols if students or adults in the school test positive?
    *When will the application for staff members who are “health compromised” be available to apply for a remote assignment?
  • Is alternate day child care available? How about for teachers who are also parents?

Parents and teachers have asked, “Why can’t we just wait until there is a vaccine”? A fair question: we have no idea when and if a vaccine will be available. Will the vaccine fully protect against the disease, or, like the flu vaccine require annual shots and not totally prevent the disease.  Even with a vaccine there will be a percentage that choose not to immunize themselves, “herd immunity,” may not be an option (See explanation here)

The governor and Jim Malatras, the head of the “Re-Imaging Task Force,” mentioned working together with teacher unions and advocacy groups across the state. The July 13th guidance, whatever it says, will not satisfy everyone. We are in uncharted waters; barring an up tick in COVID rates, for example an increase to R>1, I believe schools will reopen, with different models in different districts and different models within schools within districts.

Questions about 2021 standardized testing and Regents Examinations are far, far down the road.

School curriculum for the 20-21 school year will be as uncertain as it has been from March to June. Organizations have suggested dramatic changes, schools and staffs are struggling to decide on the “scheduling options,” struggling to decide which class will be held in which room and which space, struggling to deal with tight budgets, at this point no one is interested in changing curriculum.

Could schools move to a full in-school model later in the school year? or, return to full remote?

A shrug!!   Everything, every decision, hopefully, will continue to be driven by data; we are in uncharted waters, and, BTW, there is that “event” on November 3rd.

Questions:  send questions in the comment box and I’ll do my best to respond and/or pass along to those with “clout”


One response to “Governor Cuomo on School Re-Opening: Data-Driven State Guidance, Local Input and Many Unanswered Questions

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    The DOE plan for reopening schools has tackled the question as if it is a managerial problem rather than an instructional one. The first problem that demands solution is which instructional approaches can be equally effective if students are in school, online or a hybrid of the two as pandemic safety will require at different times during the COVID crisis. Once determined, then the managerial issues fall into place.

    It is equally clear that the Mayor and Chancellor continue to disregard the health of teachers and other school personnel. Having risked the safety of school personnel for a week last March, DeBlasio and Carranza are planning to blindly double down in the fall. It is hypocritical to profess to care so much for students while disregarding those we have entrusted with children’s lives.


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