ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s the decision many parents, students and teachers have been waiting months for.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York schools can reopen for in-person learning next month, but there are some conditions. The infection rate must be below 5%, students must wear masks, and that’s not all.

As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports, Governor Cuomo might have been channeling a line from the song “New York, New York. If I can make it there, I can make it it anywhere,” when he handed down the edict allowing schools to reopen.

“If anybody can open schools, we can open schools,” Cuomo said.

The governor, of course, was referring to his success in facing down COVID-19.

LINK: See New York City’s Final School Reopening Plan

“Let me say it this way. You can look at infection rate. We are probably in the best situation in the country right now,” he said.

But since the governor is a notorious control freak, the green light came with a number of speed bumps to address the high anxiety felt by parents and teachers, Kramer reported.

School districts will have until Aug. 21 to post complete plans for remote learning, COVID testing for teachers and students and contact tracing. School officials will have to hold meetings with parents and teachers to answer questions. And the governor suggested Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza pay particular attention to schools in neighborhoods that experience high rates of infection.


“Should you have a different strategy for schools in hot spot zip codes? You could argue, yes. I know that I’ve spoken to a number of teachers who make the point… you bring in kids from hot spot zip code homes, there should be additional precautions,” he said.

The governor pointed out that just because schools can open doesn’t guarantee people will come.

“As Governor Cuomo noted, parents and teachers must be confident that schools are safe before they reopen. In New York City, that is still an open question,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

The unions are particularly concerned about procedures for closures, testing and tracing in the event of an outbreak. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza says he’s working with the unions.

“The protocol is going to be when students arrive, their temperatures will be taken. They’ll be asked questioned,” Carranza said. “If there’s one case of a positive confirmed case in a classroom, that classroom and teacher will quarantine for 14 days.”

This being Cuomo and de Blasio, there’s also disagreement, this time over holding classes outdoors. De Blasio says it’s not a reliable situation. Cuomo says it makes sense to the extent you can do it.

New York State United Teachers released this statement:

We have been clear all along: Health and safety is the most important consideration in reopening school buildings. Viral infection rates tell only one part of the story. Many educators and parents have anxiety about local school district reopening plans that have been submitted to the state — if they even have been yet, with 127 districts that didn’t bother to submit them by last week and 50 considered incomplete by the state. Among the concerns that remain is the lack of guidance on specific procedures for closure, testing and contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 case in a school. Right now, there may be some areas where parents and educators are confident in their district’s plan, but in many others, we know they aren’t. No district should consider themselves ready to reopen buildings until their plans are safe and everything in that plan meant to keep the school community safe is implemented. Being safe means parents and teachers must be confident in the reopening plan, and it is welcome news that districts must meet with parents and teachers this month. We’re thankful the governor agrees that forcing people back into the classroom when they feel their health is threatened is not what should happen. So if districts need to phase in the reopening of buildings, so be it. We must err on the side of caution. Period.

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  1. Richard Bowden says:

    To whom it may concern:

    If we want to preserve life, then why should the city reopen public schools?

    School staff and students are not mandated to be tested intermittently like professional sports athletes. When working with a one to one special education student, will potentially be a huge risk if the student and teachers are not routinely tested. (What is to gain for not being mandated to know?)
    Asymptomatic staff and students are a major risk for infecting others and need to be identified before entering a building. (At the very least, they should be mandated to stay home.)
    There are not enough daycare centers nor allocated space to safely handle the surge of families who will need this service. (It is unlikely the city will not allocate individuals to oversee or patrol the safety of all daycare facilities especially if the city budget is in the red.)
    Every school should be mandated to have a professional nurse on staff. As far as I know, every school does not have an allocated nurse on staff. (It is not the profession for teachers and principals to make the judgment call to quantify if a child is ill.)
    I’ve recently spoken with custodians and have been told there are not enough cleaning supplies or other PPE. More importantly, there are not enough custodian staff to appropriately sanitize the school buildings. (I personally haven’t been able to purchase clorox wipes in Queens in months, but I have taken note they are available in Southern states.)
    I work in special education and I know there are parents who are knowingly going to send their child to school who will not be able to social distance themselves nor wear a facemask. (For some staff members and student families, this may very well be a death sentence.)


    Richard Bowden, Concerned Parent and Teacher in Queens County

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