The state Education Department released guidance Monday detailing how New York’s 713 school districts can make plans to reopen. President Donald Trump is demanding all schools reopen, even in areas where COVID-19 is resurgent. New York is taking a far more prudent and sensible approach.
Schools could reopen in September in New York state regions in phase 4 with a COVID-19 infection rate under 5% over a 14-day average. Schools will close if a region’s infection rate surges above 9% over a seven-day average since Aug. 1. Districts will not resume in-person instruction if the virus spikes between Aug. 1 and the first day of classes. A 5% infection rate indicates the virus is under control.
Under the guidelines, each school district must submit plans to the state by July 31 detailing the social distancing, reduced capacity and other precautions administrators will take to resume in-classroom instruction and reduce the virus spread.
New York’s Health and Education departments devised guidelines with 20 education officials as part of the state’s Reimagine Education Advisory Council for the past several weeks, including procedures for transportation, food service, after-school care and extracurricular activities, masks/PPE for students and staff, cohort structures, student screenings and daily temperature checks, disinfecting and school closures.
Trump typically bulled his way into this discussion with a demand that schools must reopen next semester and a threat to withhold federal aid if they don’t. That is appalling when so many state revenue streams have been reduced to a trickle. Equally unsuitable is his call to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to relax their own guidelines so children can go back to school.
Everyone wants to see schools reopen. But it has to be done safely. And that can be achieved by looking at the data.
This is simple as A-B-C: If the virus is under control, schools can reopen.
“We’re not going to use our children as the litmus test and we’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is endangered,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. In other words, we will not gamble with our children’s lives.