Reopen News: What Cuomo's announcement means for NYC schools

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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Even though Governor Cuomo has opened the door for students to return to classrooms in New York City for in-person instruction, the nation's largest school system is only planning to reopen part-time and still faces obstacles.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, while cautioning that he could change course at any time, he said a return to classroom instruction is vital to jump-starting the city's economy, now hobbled by parents being forced to stay home with their children.

"It will not be easy but I think most parents feel strongly that even some time in school is a lot better for their kids than none," de Blasio said responding to a question from Eyewitness News political reporter Dave Evans on Friday.

More than 1 million public school students in New York City had their last day of in-class instruction on March 13, just as waves of sick people were beginning to hit city hospitals. All schools statewide were closed by March 18.

De Blasio has been saying since the spring that his goal for fall was to bring students back on schedule, with as much classroom time as possible while still allowing for social distancing.

That plan has looked exceedingly ambitious as other large school systems have backed away from in-person instruction in recent weeks. Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston, among other places, all announced they would start the school year with students learning remotely.

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School reopening plans, though, face enormous hurdles. Cuomo warned that New York's roughly 750 districts still need to address the fears of parents and teachers that schools will be unsafe. He said he will ask school districts to post their remote learning plan and require "discussion sessions" with parents.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, appearing on CNN, said not every student will be tested but the city will have random temperature checks.

"Everyone will be wearing personal protection equipment. Face masks are required. We are going to have 24/7 people walking around disinfecting doorknobs, handrails," Carranza said. "One-way traffic in the hallways, socially distancing. We will have no more than nine to 12 students in the classrooms, all of those are scientifically based measures to keep the students safe."

Carranza added that it's "impossible to have 100% of the students in the school building at the same time on any given day and adhere to the safety protocols" such as social distancing.

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At his daily briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be watching the positivity rate for COVID-19 in NYC to determine if schools can reopen and stay open for the 2020-2021 school year.

The outbreak, while reduced, is not over in New York. Around 10,000 New York City residents tested positive for the virus in July.

New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers have demanded clearer health protocols dictating that schools should shut down immediately for two weeks if any student or member of the staff contracts the virus.

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

Teachers are prohibited from striking in New York state, but it's unclear whether large numbers would either opt out of classroom instruction for medical reasons or simply refuse to work. The governor said he doesn't want New York to get into a legal battle with teachers, adding: "You can't order a teacher into a classroom."

The president of the principal's union, Mark Cannizzaro, also expressed concern where New York City is ready to reopen schools even on a part-time basis.

"We believe that NYC school leaders do not yet have enough information and guidance from the DOE to reopen their buildings properly," he said.

The New York City Department of Education submitted its district plans for its 1,800 individual schools to the state on Friday. The DOE had until the end of the day to submit their plans.

The department says they have been in constant communication with the state and are supportive of their schedule to post school-level plans on a rolling basis by August 14. These plans are subject to approval.

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Parents, too, have struggled to decide whether to send their children to school or opt solely for online instruction at home.

Schools have spent the summer coming up with safety plans, securing protective gear and figuring out how to fit fewer students into classrooms and school buses.

Cuomo required all school systems to submit plans detailing their reopening plans, saying that the state would not allow any district with an unsafe plan to bring students back to classrooms.

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NYC Mayor de Blasio says needs schools to reopen with precautions

The governor said the Department of Health will continue to go through plans over weekend, and will notify school districts where incomplete or deficient. He said about 50 school district health plans are incomplete or deficient. A district can't open if its health plan is rejected.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker warned this week that "an ill-prepared reopening could put students, staff and parents in peril."

Earlier this summer, Cuomo set a general metric to help measure when it was safe to bring students back, saying the state would allow a return in regions where fewer than 5% of people tested for COVI

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