ALBANY (TNS) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday an “initial decision” is coming this week about whether school districts will reopen for in-person learning this fall amid the coronavirus.
One big variable, Cuomo said, involves the comfort level of parents. “They are concerned,” he said. “They should be concerned.”
The state’s 732 school districts were supposed to submit reopening plans to Albany by Friday.
Most did, Cuomo said, adding that about 650 to 700 districts have complied so far. New York City, the nation’s largest school district, missed the deadline, Cuomo said today.
The state will review the plans, the governor said.
School districts are tackling the challenges differently. Some are bringing students into the classroom a couple of times a week. Others are bringing back younger students more often. In general, smaller districts are offering the most in-person learning.
Cuomo said the districts should address technology needs as well. In many school districts, significant percentages of families did not have access to WiFi or computers when schools shut down this spring.
“Remote learning, if not done well, can be a vehicle of division,” Cuomo said today.
“Remote learning tends to work better in the wealthier school districts,” he added. “It tends to work better in wealthier homes and less well in poorer homes.”
Cuomo also said each district should have a clear plan for COVID-19 testing, including assurances that communities should be able to turn around a large amount of tests if needed.
“The parents need to review the plan, understand the plan and they have to have confidence in the plan,” Cuomo said. “If they don’t have confidence in the plan, I don’t care what the school district says. They aren’t sending their kids back.”
CUOMO ON COLLEGES
Cuomo said decisions about bringing back students to New York college campuses amid the pandemic will also be made on a school by school basis.
“It’s going to be a university by university decision,” he said.
The state has issued guidance it expects schools to follow, he added.
But when asked today whether he would weigh in on reopening colleges — as he has on virtually every other part of society, from Broadway to gyms — he said it’s the schools’ decision.
Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, said college and universities have submitted reopening plans to the state. Those are under review.
But Cuomo added, “The schools will make the decisions. The metrics are on track as far as the infection rates to move forward.”
“How comfortable am I? I’m not comfortable, period,” he said, adding that New York better positioned than other states to reopen college campuses because virus transmission here is down.
“I’d rather be in this state than any other state in the country,” he said.
Cuomo said universities should be working on testing capacity and building an early detection system. That could become challenging as more communities are sending more Covid-19 tests to national labs, creating a bottleneck in getting results.
When asked if he had a younger child preparing to go to college, he said he would read the school’s plan and insist on understanding its testing capacity. (Cuomo’s three daughter are all adults.)
“What testing does the university have?” he said.
But he also said it’s up to each individual student to take precautions, such as wearing masks, social distancing and staying out of large crowds.
“If my college kid was going to college, it would be, really, up to my child to be smart,” he said. “To not do anything reckless. To not show up at the bar or be in front in the crowd.”