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Cuomo: School Guidance Coming In August

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said school districts within New York must submit reopening plans by July 31. State officials will decide in the first week of August whether to accept the plans.

A decision on reopening schools statewide could come as early as the first week of August.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday in Albany at the same time that U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and a group of Republican state legislators were holding their own news conference in Horseheads calling on the state to give parents and school leaders more guidance on reopening this fall.

Cuomo said all school districts statewide must submit plans for reopening by July 31 and state officials will decide in the first week of August whether to accept the plans and whether schools will reopen at all.

“We have been consulting all stakeholders on guidance for how a school would reopen in September. We have 700 school districts in this state, and they range from rural to urban to suburban areas. Localities are very involved in their schools and school decisions, so we have been meeting with them,” Cuomo said. “During the first week of August, the state will announce a decision on whether or not those schools reopen, and we want to make that decision with the best available data because facts change here day to day and week to week. A week can be a lifetime with this virus because everything changes so quickly. The schools say they need a decision made by the end of the first week in August so they can then turn on the switches and get everything ready for September, and we’ll look at the data in that first week and then we’ll make a decision.”

The governor’s announcement came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said most New York City students will return to their physical schools two or three days a week and learn online the rest of the time. De Blasio said parents will have the option of online-only instruction for their children, but he said 75% of parents who answered a survey want their children in school in September.

Cuomo went a step further, criticizing President Donald Trump for his push to reopen schools. The governor made clear that the decision to reopen schools is the state’s alone to make.

“We will open the schools if it is safe to open the schools,” Cuomo said. “Everybody wants the schools open — everybody. Nobody wants the schools open more than I do. School reopening also ties to the economic reopening, right? Because you can’t really reopen the economy fully if you have the schools closed. Schools are important, not just for education, socialization of young people, we don’t even know what this means to have kids who are out of school for this period of time. So, yes, we all want to open schools. But we want it to be safe. And the test that I bring to all of these things, day camps, overnight camps, is the my child test. I am not going to ask anyone to put their child in a situation that I would not put my child in, and that’s how I make these decisions. If it’s not safe for my child, it’s not safe for your child. So, we’ll get the data and we’ll make that decision in August. But just to be clear, the federal government has no legal authority when it comes to school openings.”

Reed was joined by Republican Sen.Tom O’Meara of Big Flats, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano of Corning, Assemblyman Chris Friend of Big Flats, Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes of Caledonia and Joe Giglio of Gowanda calling on guidelines to be released soon so that school districts can begin preparing to have students back in classrooms in September.

“Our communities’ leaders have demonstrated they can be trusted with a careful and thorough reopening of schools that is focused on safety, first and foremost,” the Republican lawmakers said. “No one cares more about the health and well-being of our students, families and school communities. What has been accomplished by administrators, teachers and parents to help students throughout this public health crisis has been remarkable. These efforts must continue to supplement ongoing instruction because in-person schooling is fundamentally important to the long-term health and well-being of our young people and their families. Nothing can replace our children being in school. It’s central to quality education, our ongoing economic recovery and the strength of our social fabric. Governor Cuomo needs to release the guidelines so that school administrators can get to work implementing a safe reopening for September. The governor can’t leave school districts, students, teachers and parents waiting until the final minute for guidance.”

The New York State United Teachers union has chimed in as well, calling on additional money for personal protective equipment for students and school staff, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, social distancing inside of school buildings, accommodations for at-risk students and staff, mental health services for students and access to core academic subjects, art, music, social services and other school services, and technology if students have to learn from home.

“”We need two things to make all of this a reality,” said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT president. “First, parents and school staff must have a seat at the table locally to work out the details that are best for their communities. Second, we need the federal and state funding that absolutely will be necessary to do this safely and equitably. This isn’t a matter of whether we can do this right. We must.”

Tracy Mitrano, Democratic Party candidate for Reed’s 23rd Congressional District seat, rapped Reed for his statement on the reopening of schools.

“There’s such obvious hypocrisy in what Tom Reed is saying. He says schools should be locally controlled, but he has yet to denounce President Trump for strong-arming public schools by threatening their federal funding if they don’t reopen,” Mitrano said. “For the safety of our teachers, administrators and employees as well as for the children and their parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents, we need to put safety first. I do not hear Tom Reed saying that.”

In other news, Cuomo on Wednesday said malls located in regions currently in Phase Four can reopen Friday as long as they have “enhanced HVAC filtration systems and measures in place.” Malls across the state were forced close earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Western New York region, which includes Chautauqua County, has entered Phase Four.

FIVE NEW CASES

Five new cases of COVID-19 were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to date in Chautauqua County to 153. The new cases, according to the county Health Department, involve three women: one in her 30s, one in her 40s and one in her 80s, as well as two men, one in his 40s and one in his 60s.

As of Wednesday, there remains 19 active cases, with two previous cases (two women in their 20s) have been sent to their appropriate county.

The county Health Department said 259 county residents remain under quarantine/isolation by orders of local health officials. Not all of those being monitored are confirmed to have COVID-19 but have either shown symptoms, are awaiting results or have risk factors.

In addition, there have been 127 total recoveries, seven deaths and 17,411 negative test results.

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