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NYSSBA: Board members wary of safely reopening schools in September without additional funding


Wed, Jul 29th 2020 11:30 am

Guest Editorial by the New York State School Boards Association

A majority of New York school board members would like to see students go back to their classrooms on a full-time or part-time basis in September, but they have reservations about whether they can do that safely without additional funding, according to a poll by the New York State School Boards Association.

Seventy-one percent of board members polled said they felt their district either could not safely open schools in accordance with state guidelines in the absence of additional state or federal funding (44%) or were unsure if they could do so (27%). Twenty-nine percent believe schools in their district could reopen safely without the additional aid.

The poll also found that, if cost was not a consideration, three-quarters of school board members support having students return to in-classroom instruction in September full-time (42%) or part-time (34%). Only 15% said students should not go back at all this fall, while 9% were not sure.

"Our poll clearly shows that school board members want to see students back in school, learning in person and gaining all the social and emotional benefits that we know come from interacting with their peers, their teachers and other members of the school staff," NYSSBA Executive Director Robert Schneider said. "But board members also are cautious about the potential health and safety consequences for students and staff, and they are very concerned that insufficient resources will undermine prospects for getting this right."

School board members were split on the question of whether the state guidance they have received is sufficient to ensure that they can complete school reopening plans by July 31. 

Forty percent said the guidance is "comprehensive and granular enough" for their district to wrap up reopening plans before the deadline. But 35% said the guidance is not sufficient, and 25% said they were unsure.

The poll questions and a detailed summary of responses appear below:

Q1. Do you think the guidance issued by the state is comprehensive and granular enough for your district to create school reopening plans by July 31?

  • Yes 40.1%
  • No 35.0%
  • Not sure 25.0%

Q2. Putting aside cost considerations, do you support/not support having students return to in-classroom instruction in September?

  • Support on a part-time basis 34.0%
  • Support on a full-time basis 41.6%
  • Not support 15.3%
  • Not sure 9.0%

Q3. In the absence of more state or federal funding, do you feel you can safely open school in accordance with State Education Department and state Department of Health guidance documents?

  • Yes 28.8%
  • No 44.4%
  • Not sure 26.7%

Poll results are based on a random sample of 711 school board members surveyed July 22-28. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.34% and a confidence level of 95%. 

The New York State School Boards Association represents more than 670 school boards and more than 5,200 school board members in New York. NYSSBA provides advocacy, training and information to school boards in support of their mission to govern the state's public schools.

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