NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York schools can reopen their doors and bring students into the classrooms for the start of the school year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday.
Citing success in battling the coronavirus in the state that once was the U.S. heart of the pandemic, the governor's decision clears the way for schools to offer at least some days of in-person classes, alongside remote learning.
Students will be required to wear masks throughout the school day, and schools will urge parents to check children for symptoms.
"It is just great news," Cuomo said. "We are probably in the best situation in the country right now."
The infection rate in the state was at 1% on Friday with 5 deaths.
"If anyone can open schools we can open schools," he said. "That's true for every region in the state, period."
The governor had said last month that even if schools are technically open, he said it's up to parents whether or not they want to send their children.
He called on the schools to have at least three question and answer sessions before August 21st to help set parents' minds at ease and provide information. He said the Big 5 School Districts should have five sessions. The Conference of Big 5 School Districts represents the city school districts of New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers, Albany, Mount Vernon, and Utica.
There will need to be at least one session between the school districts and their teachers.
Two unions, 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
Governor Cuomo said that in addition to their learning plan, COVID-19 testing procedures for students and staff, and contact tracing components should be on the schools' websites.
Last month, the governor had laid out the formula and the guidelines for how schools can hold classes this fall.
He had said that regions must be in Phase 4, which all are as of August 7, and the daily infection rate must remain below 5% using a 14-day average.
New York state is also establishing stringent guidelines for how schools can safely reopen.
Those guidelines include regular cleaning of classrooms, COVID-19 screenings, and contact tracing for anyone who gets infected.
Schools will be closed if the infection level rises to 9% or greater before the day school opens. If a region is shut down for education, all schools will have to close, both public and private.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza had unveiled their "Blended Learning" plan for the city's 1.1 million schoolchildren.
De Blasio says that he believes this plan will preserve "health and safety while maintaining an understanding that the best way to educate our kids is in the classroom." He set the threshold for reopening at 3%, not 5%.
The governor was critical of the city's plan, however, after saying they submitted more of an outline than an actual plan.
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.
Parents also had until Friday to notify the city education department if they want their child to have full remote learning this fall.
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