Summer school decision to come at end of May
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced new York’s 4.2 million students will not return to campus before the end of the academic year.
In a morning press conference, Cuomo said, “We must protect our children. Every parent, every citizen, feels that. We must protect our students; we have to protect our educators. And given the circumstances that we're in, and the precautions that would have to be put in place to come up with a plan to reopen schools with all those new protocols – how you would operate a school that's socially distanced, with masks, without gatherings, with a public transportation system, that has a lower number of students on it – how would you get that plan up and running?
“We don't think it's possible to do that in a way that would keep our children and students and educators safe. So, we're going to have the schools remain closed for the rest of the year. We're going to continue the distance learning programs.
“Schools have asked about summer school, and whether we'll have attendance in schools for summer school. That decision will be made by the end of this month. Again, nobody can predict what the situation is going to be three, four weeks from now. So, we're trying to stage decisions at intervals that give us the information, but also enough time for people to make the preparations they need to make. So, any decisions on summer schools will be made by the end of this month.
“But in the meantime, meal programs will continue; the child care services for essential workers will continue.”
The governor explained, “We announced a statewide policy for our schools. We did it last March 18. We said that we were going to close schools all across the state, K-12 and higher-education schools. We waived what was called the 180-day requirement, which was the state regulation that schools had to have 180 days of teaching (to qualify for funding). Schools then transferred to distance learning programs.
“Meal delivery services, child care options for central workers, that has actually worked out well; not perfectly. We had to do it in a rush, but there are lessons that we can learn here, that could change teaching going forward, and teaching in these types of situations going forward. But it did work. It basically functioned well, and teachers did a phenomenal job stepping up to do this. It was a hardship on everyone, but we made the best of the situation.
“Colleges and universities were also moved to distance learning. Campuses were closed, unless the student really needed housing on the campus.
“Schools, obviously, by definition, have higher density; they have transportation issues; kids who are getting on a bus. We didn't have the protective measures to put in place. You have 700 public school districts, 4,800 schools in this state. Then you have 1,800 private schools, 89 SUNY and CUNY campuses, 100 private colleges. In total, it’s 4.2 million students. So, the decisions on the education system are obviously critically important.”
Cuomo noted, “We want schools to start now developing a plan to reopen; and the plan has to have protocols in place that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we learn. We're going to be asking businesses to come up with plans that safeguard workers when they reopen. We need schools to come up with plans, also, that bring those precautions into the school room – and that's for schools, that's also for colleges – and the state will approve those plans.”
New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider released a statement that said, “We commend the governor’s decision to keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic year. Clearly, schools are not ready to open for classroom learning, and they won’t be until we can adequately protect our students and staff.
“No doubt everyone – school board members, administrators, teachers, students – are anxious to return to school and some semblance of normalcy.
“But there is nothing normal about the times we live in. With more than 300,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, New York state has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic. It would not be safe to open schools now. Too many issues remain unresolved, including how we can safely transport students to and from school, create classroom environments that allow for safe distances between students, and put in place other public health safeguards that will protect our school communities.
“The governor’s decision today, in our view, was the only responsible choice.
“Finally, to the graduating Class of 2020, our heart aches over the loss of milestones in your high school career – graduations, proms and so many other rites of passage that typically occur at the end of your K-12 education. You have worked hard and your accomplishments need to be celebrated at the appropriate time. But for now, keeping you safe is our paramount concern. School board members across the state salute you and your achievements.”
The New York State School Boards Association represents more than 670 school boards and more than 5,200 school board members.
New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta also issued a statement.
“We have said all along that the health and safety of students and educators must be the primary concern during this crisis,” he said. “Keeping school buildings and colleges closed for the rest of this academic year is the smart choice. We will work with Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and state education and health officials on planning a safe and gradual reopening. We also will continue advocating that summer school programming should be voluntary, with decisions on what is right for students made at the local level.”
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.