Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out the state's guidelines for potential school reopenings in the fall, saying that the state will decide if schools are allowed to reopen region by region during the first week of August based on a formula of infection rate and re-opening phase. Schools have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In order to reopen schools, regions must have an infection rate below five percent over a 14 day average and have already entered Phase 4 of the New York State gradual reopening strategy. Regions will be notified if they meet the criteria for schools to reopen between Aug. 1 and Aug. 7, Cuomo said.
“We leave it to the 700 school districts across the state to come up with the specific plans pursuant to those guidelines,” he said Monday.
As it stands today, the Southern Tier would look like a prime candidate for schools to reopen, as they were among the first regions in the state to be approved for Phase 4, and the infection rate has dropped to 0.9 percent of positive tests out of the total number of people tested on July 12.
If at any point a region spikes to a nine percent infection rate over a seven day period, schools would immediately close again, Cuomo said. Masks will be required in all schools for teachers and students when social distance can't be maintained.
“We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs,” Cuomo said. “I’m making the determination of whether or not I would be sending my daughter to school [...] you can determine that by science.”
School districts will submit their individual reopening plans over the next several weeks, which will be subject to approval by the state government. It is not yet known what strategies the local school districts plan to employ, though Ithaca City School District Board of Education President Rob Ainslie said ICSD has been formulating and assessing five different plans, from which they will eventually choose the one that fits best and submit to the state. ICSD has been operating online, utilizing the "Distance Learning 2.0" strategy since April.
ICSD Superintendent Luvelle Brown said Monday that he expects to learn more details about the state's reopening guidelines over the next few days and to receive the full scope on Wednesday. He confirmed the district has been reviewing different plans that would separately include full in-person learning (while maintaining social distance), a hybrid concept with virtual and in-person elements, and all-online learning. He said the most likely seems like it will be a hybrid concept, but the which exact iteration is unclear yet.