NYSED releasing ‘guide’ for reopening schools

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is issuing its own “guide” not guidance for schools this year. A key distinction that this is a roadmap and not mandates or rules. In a letter sent to district superintendents on Tuesday from the New York State Education Department (NYSED), Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said:

“The process of developing guidelines and guidance will be based on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

With just four weeks until school starts, officials are breathing a small sigh of relief after NYSED announced it would develop guidance for districts. Now, school leaders are waiting on that guidance before making any rules.

“This is necessary, in the light of the continued absence of health-related school opening direction and assistance from the Governor’s Office and the State Department of Health,” Rosa said in the notice. This after the Office of the Governor and Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of the Department of Health (DOH), confirmed there would be no state guidance on reopening schools:

“With the end of the state disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are reestablished as the controlling entity for schools. Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in-person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments.”

Rosa says the guidance will address:

  • Mask wearing
  • Social distancing
  • Remote learning
  • Transportation
  • Tracking community spread
  • Potential funding sources to assist schools and districts

NYSED’s overall goals for the 2021-2022 school year are to maximize in-person teaching and learning, be responsive to student needs, and keep students and staff healthy and safe. Still, NYSED has no direct jurisdiction over matters of public health, Rosa says, or oversight authority for schools. She said the department is trying to engage with the appropriate state and federal agencies on the matter.

While the guidelines are not mandates or requirements, they are recommendations meant to support public health in local communities. Ultimately, each school district will have the choice to adopt, change or revise any suggested guidance provided. Until last Wednesday, those school districts had received guidance from DOH and the executive chamber for roughly 16 months.

“The state health department essentially abandoned their obligation,” said Steuben County Manager, Jack Wheeler. “I was personally very glad to hear that the state education department would be releasing guidance.”

In late July, the education department said students will likely be wearing masks when they return to school in the fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said all students in K-12 should wear masks in the classroom.

You can read the Commissioner’s entire letter below.

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