New York schools should follow CDC on COVID until governor acts, Rosa says

In the absence of coronavirus guidance for schools from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, state education officials on Thursday told school districts to use federal safety recommendations as a basis for their fall plans.

In a memo, State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa also said schools should be open for in-person learning “so long as allowed by public health officials” and that schools should be prepared to offer remote instruction in case of school closures.

Rosa wrote that the state education department was “anxious” to receive more guidance from Cuomo’s office, as well as the state department of health, and that the department shares the “urgency and frustration” coming from districts. Her memo comes as elected officials have increasingly called for reopening guidelines ahead of the upcoming school year, right as the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID is spreading.

“While the nature and extent of COVID-19 and its variants are still dynamic, it is essential that schools receive whatever guidance the Governor and the DOH intend to offer about the 2021-2022 school year as soon as possible to provide time for you to take necessary measures to safely welcome students in September,” Rosa wrote.

The governor’s office has informed state education officials that school guidance is “in development” and will use recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention as a basis, Rosa wrote. Those guidelines — recently reversed from earlier this month — call for universal masking inside of schools, including for vaccinated students and staff.

Remote instruction won’t be an option in New York City this fall, though some parents are pushing for it. Mayor Bill de Blasio has not issued a set list of guidelines for the fall, including whether students will be required to socially distance. Before the CDC’s reversal, de Blasio said that the city still supported requiring all students and staff to wear masks but, given the fluid nature of COVID safety guidelines, suggested his stance could change by the first day of school on Sept. 13.

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