The New York City’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo on Friday August 7, 2020, announced that schools across the state can reopen for in-person classes this fall.
He stated that schools can welcome students if the rate of infection in their communities remains low.
This announcement comes a few months after New York became a global epicenter of the pandemic.
However, Mr. Cuomo’s announcement does not guarantee that school buildings in the state’s more than 700 local districts will actually reopen in the coming weeks.
It is now up to local politicians and superintendents to decide whether to reopen, and how to do so.
Their in-person reopening plans must also be approved by the state’s education and health departments in the coming weeks.
“All schools can open,” Mr. Cuomo said.
“If anyone can open schools, we can open schools. We have the best infection rate in the country,” he added.
Governors in other states, including Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, have gone beyond Mr. Cuomo by actively encouraging school districts in their states to reopen.
However, the pandemic is raging in those states, prompting officials in major districts like Miami-Dade and Houston to announce that they would start the school year remote-only.
The city has recently logged fewer than 200 reported cases per day, although lags in test results could compromise that data.
The school reopening debate, however, presents the governor with a political conundrum from which it might be difficult to emerge unscathed.
If the city does reopen schools, it could alienate him from educators and the teachers’ union, a crucial ally.
But if the city halts or delays its opening plan, it could leave over 1 million families in the lurch over child care, and hundreds of thousands of low-income children, homeless children, and students with disabilities without in-person learning for months to come.
Mr. Cuomo acknowledged those difficulties on Friday, saying that he had been “deluged” with calls from parents and teachers who have concerns about reopening.
“If the teachers don’t come back, then you can’t really open the schools,” he said.
He added that, “If the parents don’t send their students, then you’re not really opening the schools.”