Updated 2:56 p.m. Malls in regions under Phase 4 can reopen Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday. He also said the state will have a decision in the first week of August about the reopening of schools.
Long Island entered Phase 4 Wednesday. Malls can open if they have implemented an enhanced Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning – or HVAC – filtration system and follow proper ventilation protocols. Those protocols include increased outdoor air, reduced air circulation, longer system run times and frequent filter checks.
On the issue of schools, which have been working to develop different plans for education in the fall, dependent on decisions about whether buildings will reopen, Cuomo said, “I heard the president speak yesterday and what he was tweeting about today on schools. And look, this is getting a little old as far as I’m concerned. And I heard what the president said on schools, but this is been there, done that, right? School reopenings are a state decision, period. That is the law, and that is the way we’re going to proceed.
“I am not going to ask anyone to put their child in a situation that I would not put my child in, and that’s how I make these decisions. If it’s not safe for my child, it’s not safe for your child. So, we’ll get the data and we’ll make that decision in August. But just to be clear, the federal government has no legal authority when it comes to school openings.”
“We’re all trying to figure out the best way,” Cuomo said.”We’re doing everything to be ready in September…we very much want kids back in school. It’s not intelligent to make a decision today.”
“The federal government does not decide if NYS schools reopen — the state does,” Cuomo said on Twitter. “We will make that decision based on the science and the data. ”
The federal government has been pressuring states to reopen schools, in September.
Schools closed abruptly in March as the epidemic began hitting the state hard, with students, teachers and parents trying to work out remote learning in place of in-class instruction.
Both the teachers’ unions and a school board organization responded to the possibility of reopening.
Trump’s recent threat to withhold federal funding from states that do not reopen schools was addressed by James Malatras, president of Empire State College and a key Cuomo aide. He noted that the federal government only supplies $3.5 billion of the $70 billion that are spent on public schools in New York. He added that federal money provides food and other services to the most vulnerable populations.
Malatras said private schools and charter schools need to work with public schools to devise plans for transportation and delivery of other services. However, the state wants to see individual plans from all types of schools, he said.
“We very much want to open up in September,” Cuomo said. But parents may keep students home if there is an uptick in infection rates.
New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said, “Health and safety of students, families, educators and other school staff, and equitable access to a high-quality education must be the top priorities in reopening schools. The federal government’s demands that schools reopen without concern for health, safety and equity are simply out of touch. Thankfully here in New York, we know the governor, the Regents and fellow education stakeholders are taking this seriously. Our work with them continues, and while the intricate details of reopening may be complex and differ from school district to school district, there are simple points we believe must be addressed:
- School districts must have personal protective equipment available for every student and staff member to use as appropriate.
- Cleaning and disinfecting protocols must be in place, pursuant to the recommendations of relevant health experts.
- Six feet of social distancing must be required inside school buildings.
- Accommodations must be available for students and staff who are at higher risk for contracting this illness to ensure they can limit their exposure.
- School districts must ensure they have adequate mental health services to address the psychological impacts of this pandemic on students.
- There must be equitable access to a well-rounded education for every student, regardless of what reopening looks like. That means core academic subjects, arts, music, social services and other school services, and the technology to access those things remotely as necessary must be available no matter a student’s ZIP code.
“We need two things to make all of this a reality. First, parents and school staff must have a seat at the table locally to work out the details that are best for their communities. Second, we need the federal and state funding that absolutely will be necessary to do this safely and equitably. This isn’t a matter of whether we can do this right. We must.”