Press Release Sends School Districts Scrambling

A press release from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office listing 107 schools as not having submitted their in-person reopening plans sent several school districts into a frenzy Monday afternoon, prompting clarification from a senior state aide.

In the release, the state announced that a Friday deadline had been set for districts on the list to submit their plan.

“If they don’t submit a plan by this Friday, they can’t open,” Cuomo said in the release.

However, many of the districts mentioned claimed that they had, in fact, submitted their plans to the state, according to media outlets in Rochester and Auburn.

Multiple media inquiries to the state press office prompted Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to the governor, to release a statement clarifying that the state listed districts that had not filed a plan with the state Department of Health or state Education Department.

“The list of districts that didn’t file a plan with the state Department of Health is accurate,” Azzopardi said in the release. “Despite clear guidance provided to these schools, which included a link to the DOH portal, some districts in follow-up calls said they filed with the State Education Department — which is not an executive agency — but didn’t file with DOH. Others filled out an affirmation certifying that they would be abiding by the state’s reopening guidance, but didn’t actually submit their plan, something many of these districts are now rectifying.”

Pine Valley Central School Superintendent Bryna Booth — the lone area school district named — was surprised to see her district on the list, telling The Post-Journal she submitted her plan to both the state Education Department and to the Department of Health on July 30 — one day ahead of the deadline — but only received a confirmation from the former.

“There were two different places to submit the link,” she said. “We submitted everything to both departments and received a confirmation from the state education department. We didn’t have a confirmation from the health department, so we submitted today and screenshot the confirmation as proof. We should be good to go now.”

Booth explained that the plan could have been placed in the wrong place on the health department’s portal and noted that contrary to Azzopardi’s assertion, guidance was less than clear.

“It was confusing,” she said, emphasizing that the district should now be cleared to open.

“On the DOH page, you’re required to take a PDF document and upload it. … Very honestly, we could have put it in the wrong box initially, but now that we’ve received confirmation that it has been submitted and we’re excited to have kids back,” she said.

Other districts across the state, however, have indicated the confusion caused by Monday’s release and several have claimed that they weren’t aware of the link shared in the guidance for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in July. That guidance included a link for school districts to submit their reopening plans to the state Department of Health. The state Education Department, meanwhile, had a separate submission process through its portal.

Two Rochester-area school district superintendents from Bloomfield and Geneva told 13WHAM that they had submitted their plans, while the superintendent of Red Creek Central School, located in central New York, told The Citizen that he was unaware of a separate place for submission in the Department of Health portal.

Webster Central School District Superintendent Carmen Gumina voiced his frustration with how school districts found out on Twitter.

Gumina, who said his district received confirmation of its submission to the Department of Health, tweeted, “I know we’re all under tons of stress and frustration … but a favor to ask from @HealthNYGOV: Can you confirm each individual district that they haven’t turned in their plan before releasing their name to the media? Not that I don’t enjoy responding to media inquiries, but…”


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