NEW YORK CITY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday said schools can reopen in the fall as long as they publicly post plans to address remote learning, novel coronavirus testing and tracing.
"They have to answer the questions of the parents," Cuomo said. "These three areas are the highly questioned areas, almost across all school districts."
Cuomo ordered school districts to post publicly by the end of next week plans to address remote learning equity, testing practices for students and teachers, and contact tracing should an outbreak occur.
School districts must also schedule sessions to meet with parents and teachers to address their concerns over specific plans, Cuomo said.
"I have been deluged with calls from parents and teachers," Cuomo said. "If the teachers don't come back, you can't really open schools.
The DOH will examine plans submitted by the state's 749 school districts over the weekend and notify school districts of approvals, or disapprovals, on Monday.
School districts without approved plans must either address concerns or be denied permission to reopen in September, Cuomo said.
New York City's Department of Education published Friday afternoon its 108-page reopening plan, which can be read online here, and provides more detail on technology equity, testing and tracing.
While districts outside New York City will conduct temperature checks on school premises, parents and school staff will be asked to conduct daily health screenings at home. They will also face random checks at school.
NYC Test + Trace Corps, the city's Health Department and Building Response Teams, will be responsible for isolating those showing symptoms, tracing any case spread in classrooms and determining when it safe for a student, teacher or staff member to return.
Families without internet access at home who have not received an internet-enabled device can request one through the iPad Distribution page or by calling (718) 935-5100.
Teachers' unions have expressed deep concerns over the city's plan, specifically how it will deal with hot spot areas with higher infection rates and testing requirements teachers fear are lax.
"There is going to need to be significant discussion because teachers are raising many issues," Cuomo said. "They're not going to be able to teach in that environment...they need to feel comfortable."
New York unions and parents have also called for a statewide plan for contact tracing and protocols to shut down schools, but Cuomo said Friday, "there's no one size fits all."
"These have to be done district by district," Cuomo said. "What I want to make sure is, they get the information up."
That flexibility allows, for example, New York City to prompt school closings should the citywide positive testing rate reach 3 percent, 2 points lower than the state-set level.
Mayor Bill de Blasio's school plan announcement last week indicated that city schools would not reopen if COVID-19 testing rates reached 3 percent on a 7-day rolling average, a number that was confirmed in the plan relelased by the DOE on Friday.
"There's been a lot of collaboration on the notion of tough thresholds in general," de Blasio said Friday. "We're going to work with the state to figure out what's safe."
The following day, Cuomo said he was "disappointed" New York City was not among the regions to have filed a school plan with his office and raised concerns about its contact tracing.
De Blasio admitted he did not know what Cuomo would announce but asserted their offices were "communicating constantly."
The mayor noted New York City faces a specific challenge as the largest public school system in the nation with 1.1 million students.
Cuomo's announcement also came on the deadline for New York City parents to choose either blended or entirely remote learning for their kids.
"It's really tough for parents," de Blasio said. "But I also think New York City parents are realists."
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