NYC Won't Submit Specific School Plans Until Mid-August, Will Send Basics by Friday Deadline

The state Education Department presented a framework earlier this month for safely reopening schools, which includes mandatory face coverings, social distancing and flexibility when it comes to hybrid learning.

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New York City will turn in a basic framework for its return-to-school plans to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office by Friday's deadline, but it doesn't plan to submit specific plans for each of its nearly 2,000 buildings until mid-August, City Hall confirmed.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that New York City has put substantial work into its all-encompassing plan and would submit that Friday as the state has required. Individual plans for the 1,800 school buildings in the five boroughs will be submitted two weeks later, by Aug. 14, he said.

The mayor vowed parents would still get their kids' in-person vs. remote learning schedules with plenty of time to prepare (the city has said most students will be in the physical classroom just two or three times a week). A City Hall spokeswoman said New York City, home to the nation's largest public school district, is not the only municipality to seek an extension for school-specific plans, but didn't immediately say which other districts would ask for a delay.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo set Friday's deadline for all school districts in New York state. He wants an opportunity to review individual school plans before he determines whether schools can reopen in the state across the board in September. He said he'll make an initial decision the first week of August.

After that overarching determination, he'll assess on a regional basis whether the state's 10 regions meet certain criteria to reopen schools this fall.

The governor recently offered clarity on the formula used by the state to determine a region's ability to open schools in the fall. In order to reopen, he said, the school's region must be in Phase IV and maintain a daily infection rate 5 percent or lower over a 14-day average. Right now, the whole state is in Phase IV.

"That means the virus is under control. That means it’s safe to reopen and then the schools can proceed to reopening in that region, exactly how, you look at the state guidelines. This determination will be made the first week in August," Cuomo said in making the schools announcement earlier this month.

That said, if the regional rate shoots past 9 percent over a seven-day average after Cuomo clears a district to reopen, schools will have to immediately close.

"Once you get a clear and can reopen what you do is you follow the guidelines. We’ll leave it to the 700 school districts across the state to come up with a specific plan pursuant to those guidelines," Cuomo said. "We have done state health guidelines. The state department of education is doing state education guidelines, which will incorporate our health guidelines."

Despite skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in several states, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is pushing the Trump plan to fully reopen schools, in person, five days a week. Some districts says they're not ready and will start at least partially online.

The guidelines presented by the state's Department of Education to the Board of Regents include:

  • Perform health checks and screenings, per DOH guidance, and recognize signs and symptoms of illness in students and staff; develop plans to maximize social distancing; develop plans to manage and isolate ill persons until they can be sent home; instruct students and staff in proper hand and respiratory hygiene; require wearing masks or face coverings; and develop cleaning and disinfecting procedures for the school in accordance with guidance set forth by the CDC and DOH;
  • Schools and school districts should promote social distancing while maintaining existing safety requirements designed to protect students.  To accomplish this, schools may expand their physical footprint or change the way they utilize space.  Schools should also continue to meet or exceed ventilation requirements and may consult with design professionals to increase ventilation and filtration;
  • Each district will be required to: perform regular school bus disinfection measures; train school bus staff regarding social distancing on the bus, at stops, and at unloading times; and train staff regarding the wearing of masks. Students will wear masks and social distance on the bus;
  • Mandatory teaching and learning requirements include: clear opportunities for equitable instruction for all students; continuity of learning when using any instructional model; standards-based instruction; substantive daily interaction between teachers and students; and clear communication plans between parents and schools;
  • Districts and schools must: have knowledge of the level of access all students and teachers have in their places of residence; to the extent practicable, address the need to provide devices and internet access to students and teachers who currently do not have sufficient access; and provide multiple ways for students to participate in learning and demonstrate mastery of learning standards in remote/blended models. 
Texas’s Tarleton State University and other small schools are getting a boost in enrollment as the coronavirus pandemic makes traveling to large, distant schools less appealing to students. The university's president James Hurley joins LX News to discuss the trend.

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