Gov. Andrew Cuomo Details Guidance on Reopening New York Schools: ‘We’re Not Going to Use Our Children as Guinea Pigs’

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH30: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo holds his daily briefing on coronavirus update at the Javits Center also known as the Jacob Javits Medical Center powered by the New York State Guard on March 30, 2020 in New York City. Credit: mpi43/MediaPunch /IPX
MediaPunch/IPX via AP Photo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday announced the state’s guidance on reopening schools across the state, emphasizing that they are “not going to use our children as guinea pigs” in the process.

“We all want schools to open but it has to be safe. In NY we will decide based on the data,” Cuomo said on social media.

According to the governor, schools will reopen “if a region is in Phase 4 & daily infection rate remains below 5% (14-day avg).” Schools will be closed in the event that the regional infection rate is “greater than 9% (7-day avg) after August 1”:

Districts and schools are required to send their reopening plans to the department by July 31 in accordance with the guidelines presented by the Board of Regents, which were framed by “four virtual Regional School Reopening Task Force meetings as well as a student forum hosted by the Board of Regents and Department.”

The guidance urges schools to focus on preventative actions, performing health checks, providing instruction on proper hygiene, and emphasizing social distancing.

As for the physical facilities, the guidance states that schools “should promote social distancing while maintaining existing safety requirements designed to protect students” by expanding their “physical footprint” or changing “the way they utilize space.” It also calls for schools to “meet or exceed ventilation requirements.”

The guidance also weighs in on transportation, deeming the school bus an “extension of the classroom” and stating that services “should be provided to all students with consistency and equity.” Districts will be required to routinely disinfect buses, where students will be required to wear masks and engage in social distancing.

“By July 31, all districts and schools are required to create and submit to the Department Reopening Plans at the school level which should be posted on their public website and must contain the mandatory elements outlined in NYSED’s School Reopening Guidance Document,” the department added.

Cuomo, however, warned that New York is “not going to use our children as a litmus test and we’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is in danger.”

“It’s that simple, common sense, and intelligence can still determine what we do even in this crazy environment,” he said. “We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

“So the formula is this: schools will reopen if that region is in Phase 4 and the daily infection rate remains 5 percent or lower over a 14 day average. Okay?” Cuomo said.

All religions, minus New York City, are currently in Phase 4.

President Trump has emphasized the importance of reopening schools, warning that the government may “cut off” funding if they do not reopen in the fall — a proposal also floated by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who said the department is “seriously considering” withholding funds from districts that refuse to put forth effort in safely reopening for the upcoming academic year:

“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things,” Trump said last week. “I will be meeting with them!!!”:

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