MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Saying that every region in New York State is well below the COVID-19 infection limit, Gov. Cuomo announced Friday morning (Aug. 7) that schools statewide will be allowed to open in September.
He said should the infection rate spike, the guidance will change accordingly. School districts were required to submit plans to NYS for review.
Mahopac School District announced plans earlier this month to institute a hybrid approach that would incorporate both in-person and distant learning that would limit the number of students in the school buildings on any given day. That plan was approved by Albany earlier this month.
“I am not surprised,” Mahopac School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo said of the governor’s decision to allow schools to reopen. “He talked about thresholds that we were allowed, and I think we are ready.”
DiCarlo said the district is finishing up a series of “town hall” meetings with parents and then will send out a survey to see how many families will opt to keep their children home and solely use remote learning, which is their prerogative.
“Once we get all the information, we will send out [school reopening] information to all the parents,” he said. “We are going to get ready. There is still lots of professional development for the staff and the PPE (personal protective equipment) is coming in.”
DiCarlo said that while Albany approved Mahopac’s hybrid plan, the state also wants the district to have a plan solely for remote learning posted on its website.
“In case the virus kicks up again, they want it accessible,” the superintendent said.
The governor also wants school districts to have plans in place for COVID testing and contact tracing that would also be posted on the district’s websites.
“We have been meeting every Monday with the [county] Department of Health to talk about how we will work with them regarding testing and tracing,” DiCarlo said. “We can only do that in conjunction with them.”
Meanwhile, sports and other extracurricular activities remain on the back burner. A potential starting date for fall sports has been set for Sept. 24.
Plays and concerts and other afterschool events are still in limbo.
“That’s all determined by social distancing guidelines,” DiCarlo said. “In may not happen this year. You can’t put on a play that way.”
DiCarlo said his staff and faculty are excited that school will reopen with students in the building but noted there is still a lot of work to do.
“We are going follow the guidelines and mitigate it to the best of our ability,” he said. “We have to make kids aware of social distancing and wearing masks, or we will go back to where we were and back to remote learning and no one wants that.”
During his Friday press conference, Cuomo called his decision to reopen “great news.”
“We are probably in the best situation in the country right now,” he said.
The governor said that the COVID infection rate statewide was at 1 percent with five deaths on Aug. 7.
“If anyone can open schools, we can open schools,” he said. “That’s true for every region in the state, period.”
Cuomo had said that regions must be in Phase 4, which all were as of Aug. 7, and the daily infection rate must remain below 5 percent using a 14-day average.
State guidelines for reopening include face masks when social distancing is not possible, regular cleaning of classrooms, COVID-19 screenings and contact tracing for anyone who gets infected. Cuomo said schools will be closed if the infection level rises to 9 percent or greater before the day that schools open. If one region is shut down for education, all schools will have to close, both public and private.