No Return for District, College Students

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Cuomo extends closure for rest of academic year

School districts and colleges shutdown since March 18 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and their officials required to submit plans for protecting students, faculty and staff when reopening in the fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday.

The announcement affects an estimated 4.2 million students at 700 school districts, including Beacon, Haldane and Garrison, along with 1,800 private schools, 89 SUNY and CUNY campuses and more than 100 private colleges.

Cuomo acknowledged the difficult logistics of reopening schools for the balance of the year. During the shutdown, districts have been providing distance learning, free meals to students and child care for essential employees. Colleges also switched to distance learning and closed campus housing for all students except those without other options.

The announcement also caps what has been a trying period for administrators, teachers, parents and students, including high school and college seniors deprived of traditional graduation ceremonies. It also sinks spring sports; Section 1 officials, which includes 79 schools in Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, have said sports cannot restart until school was back in session.

Haldane Superintendent Phil Benante, whose district had at least one student test positive for COVID-19, called the news “disappointing” in a statement to staff, faculty and parents, but said it was also “understandable given the scope of the public health crisis and our need to take continued measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

Beacon Superintendent Matt Landahl also issued a statement.

“While I know many of us expected this announcement, it does not take away how sad this is for our community,” he said. “I know as a dad how hard this is seeing my son physically away from his friends and his teachers.”

Schools will continue to provide meals and child care, but a decision on summer school will not be made until the end of this month, Cuomo said. District and college officials must also craft, and submit for state approval, their plans for ensuring the safety of students, faculty and staff in the fall.

Those plans must show how districts and colleges will monitor the spread of COVID-19, house and feed students who typically live and eat in groups, educated special-education students and safely carry out extracurricular activities.

“The plan has to have protocols in place that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we learned,” Cuomo said.

Landahl said he and Beacon officials would come up with a plan “collaboratively” with input from the community and district “stakeholders.”

Beacon school officials are also developing a graduation ceremony that goes “beyond a ‘virtual/digital’ graduation,” Landahl said. The ceremony will “strictly follow” health guidelines, he said.

“We do want our seniors, even if it is just in front of their families and everyone is safely social distancing, to walk across a stage,” he said. “If it takes 10 hours to do it safely and families come in shifts, so be it.”

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