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How New York State Schools will Plan for Reopening

How New York State Schools will Plan for Reopening

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health released a series of guidelines that must be included in each district’s plans for reopening in-person schooling.

Updated Aug. 7: Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave New York's 700 school districts the green light to reopen in the fall.  Cuomo arrived at this decision by using a formula that states: Schools can reopen if the region is in Phase 4 and daily infection rate is 5 percent or lower over a 14-day average. If the regional infection rate is more than 9 percent, using a 7-day average after Saturday, Aug. 1, schools will have to close immediately, according to Governor Cuomo. Currently, all 15 regions in New York have an infection rate of under 1.5 percent.

New York State Department of Health released interim guidance that schools from pre-K to 12th grade will have to follow in order to reopen their schools for in-person instruction. Each school's plan must cover:

  • Reopening school facilities for in-person instruction

  • Monitoring health conditions

  • Containing and preventing transmission of COVID-19

  • Closing schools and halting in-person instruction if there is widespread transmission of the virus

Governor Cuomo says that while he has made the data-driven decision, the school's plans are ultimately not up to him. Whether it is outdoor education, half days, full-days, 3-days a week, or something else, those decisions are up to the school.

"Parents have to be included and believe the plan makes sense. Teachers have to be included and believe the plan makes sense. They are the ultimate determination," Cuomo said this week. "If a teacher doesn't show up, you can't open the class. If a parent doesn't send their child there's no child to educate."

Additionally, Governor Cuomo said that as of right now, inter-scholastic sports will not return in the fall.

RELATED: Cuomo Announces $94 Million New York School Tech Upgrade 

New York DOH Guidelines for Reopening Schools

In order to ensure equity in education, according to the State, districts must prioritize a return to in-person instruction to the best of its ability with respect to COVID-19. Each reopening plan must meet the following minimum safety requirements, as per the New York State department of health. If the school district's plan is rejected by the DOH, the school will have to revise its plan or it will not reopen, according to Cuomo.

  • Capacity: The number of students and faculty allowed to return for in-school instruction must be small enough to maintain social distancing, ensure that an appropriate amount of protective gear is available, and provide access to safe transportation

  • Social Distancing and PPE: Schools are required to institute protocols to maintain social distancing, in addition to protocols that will ensure that PPE safety gear is accessible and worn at all times on school grounds. Protocols must be set to ensure that students using public transit are socially distanced and wearing proper PPE .

  • Activities and Extracurriculars: Schools are required to highlight how various in-person activities and spaces will be modified to accommodate the different phases of learning, and which extracurriculars will be allowed.

  • Disinfection and Hygiene: School-wide cleaning procedures are required including classrooms, restrooms, cafeterias, libraries, playgrounds, buses, and all other school facilities. Training and promotion of hand and respiratory hygiene among all individuals in school facilities and on school grounds is also required. 

  • Protecting Vulnerable Populations: Policies unique to dealing with vulnerable populations, including at-risk groups and people who may not feel comfortable returning to in-person instruction, must be set.

  • Food Services: Procedures addressing onsite and remote food services must be set

  • Mental Health Support: Mental/behavioral and emotional support programs must be offered by the district.

  • Communication: Plans for how the school will communicate updates and new information to students and parents must be set.

RELATED: Here's What Some Parents are Doing to Plan for the 2020 School Year

Monitoring Health Conditions in New York Schools

Schools are required to plan how they will track the health of students and faculty coming in and out of facilities. Each district’s plan must include how the school will: 

  • Conduct mandatory health screenings of people who enter school grounds

  • Test individuals who are either symptomatic or have interacted with someone infected 

  • Identify who is responsible for administering COVID-19 tests 

  • Define the early COVID-19 warning signs to look out for

Containing the Spread of COVID-19 in New York Schools

Containment protocols must address how the school will respond to a positive test and what they will do to prevent the virus from spreading school-wide. Schools must, at a minimum, address:

  • How they will care for a student or faculty member who has tested positive during the school day, and the protocol for parent-pick up 

  • Procedures for infected individuals to isolate themselves, and for anyone who has been exposed to quarantine before returning to in-school instruction

  • Promoting hygiene and disinfecting all exposed public areas

  • Supporting local contact-tracing efforts

Planning for New York School Closures

Closure plans must address how the school will halt in-person education if necessary, which conditions would result in limiting or ending in-person instruction, and which activities would be decreased or ended should in-person instruction end. 

School districts in Westchester have begun finalizing plans for a hybrid-learning model that include a combination of remote and in-person education. 

“If we do see plans for a return in September, administrators will have a limited amount of time to make crucial decisions about how to provide a quality education for our students, while maintaining their health and safety, which will always be our top priority," Westchester County Executive George Latimer told the Daily Voice. 

The state has advised school districts to plan for three potential outcomes:

  • A district-wide virtual model where students are at home full time
  • A district-wide hybrid model where some students learn daily at home and others attend in school
  • A district-wide full return model where all students return to school in person

School districts on Long Island are beginning to finalize plans as well, with a mix of all three potentials currently in place for varying schools but subject to change. 

How New York State will Help Schools Create Reopening Plans

In order to help schools create their reopening plans, the state provided the guidance regarding people, places, and processes. The guidance that falls under the category people includes information about social distancing, face coverings, space configurations, schedules, signage, meals, small spaces, faculty and staff meetings, ventilation, common areas, cohorts, in-person instruction, drop-off and pick-up, deliveries, faculty staff entrances and exits, and shared objects. 

The guidance that has been offered for places includes information about PPE, hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, coordination and phased reopening, communications, and residential living.

Lastly, guidance that has been offered by the state for processes includes information about health screening, temperature checks, positive screen protocols, in-person screening, school health offices, tracing and tracking, and quarantine.

NYMP is your go-to source for the reopening of New York schools. Subscribe to our newsletter for up-to-date school information and follow us on Instagram and Facebook  for the latest information and advice for the 2020 school year in New York State.


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