Cuomo readies schools to start with ‘red stop button’ if worse comes to worst

June 17, 2020- Albany, NY- Governor Andrew Cuomo holds daily Coronavirus press briefing (Darren McGee- Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew Cuomo is again examining mistakes made abroad in preparation for allowing in-person schooling to continue as New Yorkers continue to enjoy a low COVID-19 infection rate in comparison to other states.

The governor says Israel will act as a warning to New York in putting kids back in classrooms, but that teachers would not be forced to return to work if they feel unsafe for the time-being. However, if the infection rate hits 9%, schools would go back to remote learning.

Some school districts have issued plans to the state that need to be approved before children to return, but Cuomo acknowledged that remote learning was not an “equitable” scenario due to the rapid transition from the onset of COVID-19 in March.

“Israel is fighting a second wave after opening schools,” Cuomo said. “It’s about the parents being comfortable. Just because the school district says we’re open does not mean students are going to go, I can tell you that right now… It is going to be dependent on the school district’s plan and there’s going to have to be some dialogue because the plans are going to generate questions from the parents. That dialogue is going to be important because if parents don’t feel comfortable, they’re not going to send the children.”

Testing capacity will be just one hurdle for reopening even though as of Sunday the state had completed up to 6 million since the pandemic began, according to Cuomo, almost 59,000 on Saturday alone.

Whether or not teacher unions could make the reopening of school more difficult, Cuomo said their level of comfort would need to be taken into account as well.

“If the union isn’t comfortable with a plan, I don’t know that it would have to come down to a strike, But if the union and the teachers aren’t comfortable then they’re not going to show up and that’s a problem,” Cuomo said. “This is about common sense and public health.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a basic citywide plan on Friday in which schools will reopen in the fall, but only if the infection rate for the general public remains below 3%. Social distancing guidelines will be applied to classrooms as well as free personal protective equipment provided at no cost, according to de Blasio. Schools will be cleaned daily and nightly.

Students and education staff will also be given priority testing by the city.