NY school officials, parents eagerly await COVID-19 guidance for school year
There's new urgency for the release of COVID-19 guidelines for schools as soon as possible ahead of the upcoming calendar year.
State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa wrote a letter to school leaders, saying she shares frustration that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office still hasn't given health and safety guidelines to open school in September.
While the public health scenario continues to fluctuate, Rosa is urging the state to give guidance to school as soon as possible.
"Everyone in New York State is waiting in anticipation to finalize their approaches for welcoming our children back in September," says White Plains Schools Superintendent Joseph Ricca.
Districts have been told to rely on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control for the time being. On Tuesday, the CDC said everyone should be masked inside schools in the fall, vaccinated or not.
Across the board, school officials are hoping the guidelines don't change expectations for September.
"My hope is that no one will compromise with the returning of school -- the reopening of school -- for all children five days a week with very little restrictions," says Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada.
In the letter to school leaders, Rosa also mentions that the Education Department isn't requiring schools to give an all-remote learning option for the upcoming school year.
She does warn that the option needs to be prepared to be used in case schools will need to close again for a public health emergency.
Rosa also says districts can work with families to provide remote options for students who may need it.
"The overall goal for the next school year is to maximize in-person teaching and learning... be responsive to student needs.. and keep students and staff healthy and safe. Be assured the Department is engaged in continuing efforts to help develop and secure guidance to advance that goal," Rosa wrote in the letter.
Gov. Cuomo's staff says guidelines are still in the works, but the latest CDC guidance will serve as its basis.
School leaders across the region say they are expecting the state to release the latest within the next week.
"Once guidelines come out then the unions and the superintendents can get together and figure out the logistics of it adhering to those guidelines, but we can't start that work until the guidelines come out," says president of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers Samantha Rosado-Ciriello.
The Department of Health issued a statement on the matter. It reads, "We will let the health professionals make the call, not bureaucrats. We must get a handle on the Delta variant so kids can get back to school in the most normal way possible. This latest announcement from the CDC reinforces the fact that public health metrics are constantly changing, and it is difficult to predict what will be most effective for schools this far in advance. There are no points for speed in developing fall guidance and this is not something that should be rushed - especially with the health of our children on the line. New York State continues to review the new CDC guidance and daily data outcomes, communicate with health and education stakeholders across the State and will ultimately make our recommendations for the fall based on what is in the best interest of public health."