New York governor Andrew Cuomo says that schools across the entire state can reopen this fall. The decision comes as more schools across the country are choosing a hybrid model or opting to stay completely remote.
In mid-July, Governor Cuomo said schools could reopen if regional COVID-19 infection rates remained below 5%. This week, New York City’s infection rate dropped below 1%. Around the state, infection rates have remained below 2%. Cuomo has also stated previously that schools will close if infection rates reach an average of 9% in a given week.
In preparation for the fall, local district leaders have submitted reopening plans to the Department of Health, which is currently reviewing them. The governor has told leaders that they must publicly share those finalized plans, including plans for testing and contact tracing.
But even if the plans are approved, parents and teachers have to be comfortable for school to reopen.
“Just because a district puts out a plan doesn’t mean that if we reopen the school, parents are going to come or teachers are going to come. It’s not, ‘Well, the government said the schools are open. Now everybody must go.’ It’s not going to happen that way,” Cuomo said in a press conference earlier this week.
The announcement comes as schools across the country are weighing whether or not to bring students back into classrooms this coming semester. Facing a rising number of cases, the state of Maryland has chosen to start the school year at home with classes being conducted online. While both Florida and Texas had previously announced students could return to school in person, mounting cases of COVID-19 and backlash have forced the governors of both those states to reconsider. Texas governor Greg Abbott has decided to defer to schools on whether to reopen. Meanwhile, Florida’s largest teachers union is suing the state in an attempt to put individual school districts in charge of whether they return to school in person. The union has communicated that it does not want to send teachers back into classrooms until infection rates come down.
Even Cuomo has said there is a possibility that not all schools in the state of New York will reopen come fall. “It would take one of two things,” he said. “Either (a), the infection rate would have to go up where you knew you were dealing with a highly charged environment, or (two), a particular school district wouldn’t have an acceptable plan.”