NEW YORK - Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that he would allow children statewide to return to classrooms for the start of the new school year, citing the state’s success in battling the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement clears the way for schools to offer at least some days of in-person classes, alongside remote learning. Each school district is responsible for devising their own reopening plan.
"Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established," Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters. "If there's a spike in the infection rate, if there's a matter of concern in the infection rate, then we can revisit."
Many of New York's 750 school districts have planned to start the year with students in school buildings only a few days a week, while learning at home the rest of the time.
All school districts will be required to post their reopening plan including how confirmed COVID-19 cases will be handled online by Aug. 14.
"If anyone state can do it, we can," said Cuomo.
The five largest school districts including New York City will be required to host five information sessions with parents to discuss the reopening plan by Aug. 21. A separate session with teachers and administrators will also be required.
"They have to be comfortable. You don't want to get into a legal battle about it," said Cuomo.
127 school districts have not submitted their reopening plan to the state Department of Health and more than 50 districts submitted incomplete or deficient plans, added Cuomo.
The parents of NYC public school students had until Friday to notify the city's Department of Education whether they would be selecting all-remote learning. A parent can opt-in to all-remote learning at any time, but a parent who has selected remote learning will have to wait until another time period to return to in-person learning.
New York City is now one of the only large school districts nationwide to offer a blended-learning plan.
The NYC plan calls for not opening schools unless the citywide rate of positive COVID-19 tests is below 3% -- a lower number than the 5% rate that has been cited by experts as a sign that it's safe to open schools and businesses. NYC has been hovering between 1-2 percent.