Cuomo Gives Green Light for Schools

Districts to get reaction to individual plans on Monday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday (Aug. 7) that, based on COVID-19 infection rates in each of New York’s nine regions, public schools across the state will be permitted to open this fall.

That means that every region, including the Mid-Hudson, which includes Dutchess and Putnam counties, has an infection rate below 5 percent — the threshold set by the state to open schools. The rate of positive test results in the Mid-Hudson Region on Friday was 0.7 percent, the state said; the other regions ranged from 0.2 to 1.7 percent. Statewide, there were 74,857 tests done on Friday, of which 703, or 0.93 percent, were positive.

The re-opening criteria is based on region and not individual counties or municipalities, but infection rates also have been relatively low in Dutchess (which on Friday tested 1,191 people and had 11 positives) and Putnam (which tested 320 people and had one positive).

(Since March, Dutchess had conducted 99,665 tests and found 4.6 percent to be positive for COVID-19, while Putnam had conducted 28,660 tests and reported 5.0 percent positive, with those percentages dropping each week as more testing is done and fewer people test positive.)

Answers to Your Questions

In the Aug. 14 issue, The Current will provide more details about the reopening plans for the Beacon, Haldane and Garrison districts, as well as for private schools and the Dutchess and Putnam County BOCES. The paper also will hold a Current Conversation by Zoom with Haldane Superintendent Philip Benante on Monday (Aug. 10) at 7 p.m. and Beacon Superintendent Matt Landahl on Wednesday (Aug. 12). Both begin at 7 p.m. and audience members will be able to submit questions by chat. Click here to register.

“Based on our infection rate, New York State is in the best possible situation right now,” the governor said in a statement. “If anybody can open schools, we can open schools. We do masks, we do social distancing, we’ve kept that infection rate down, and we can bring the same level of intelligence to the school reopening that we brought to the economic reopening.”

Cuomo last month asked every school district in the state to submit a detailed reopening plan to his office. Schools would be allowed to reopen, he said, provided their region had reached the fourth and final phase of the state’s reopening plan — all nine regions have done so — and if its daily infection rate remains at 5 percent or lower using a 14-day average.

Schools will be forced to close if the regional infection rate rises above 9 percent, using a seven-day average, after Aug. 1.

The Department of Health will review the districts’ reopening plans — Haldane and Beacon submitted their proposals last week and Garrison on Aug. 7 — and notify school officials of their status on Monday. On Friday, the state said that 177 of the state’s 749 districts had not yet submitted plans, or had sent incomplete or deficient proposals.

From there, it will be up to each district to determine how it will proceed, although most seem to be considering hybrid models that mix in-person and virtual instruction to accommodate parents who either want to send their children back to school or prefer to keep them at home.

Cuomo also announced on Friday that school districts must post their remote learning plans online as well as their plans for testing and tracing students and teachers. Schools must hold three to five public meetings before Aug. 21 and a meeting with teachers to go through their reopening plan.

During his press conference, the governor acknowledged parents’ and teachers’ fears about reopening and urged school officials to keep the lines of communication open.

“We’re going to watch the infection rate between now and the day that schools open,” Cuomo said. “If there is a spike in the infection rate, if there’s a matter of concern in the infection rate, then we can revisit it.

“I have been deluged with calls from parents and teachers, and there’s a significant level of anxiety and concern,” he said. “And I’ve said a number of times, these school districts have to be talking to the parents and talking to the teachers, because if the teachers don’t come back, then you can’t really open the schools. If the parents don’t send their students, then you’re not really opening the schools.”

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