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'Schedule the parent briefings': Cuomo urges school districts to move on reopening plans

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that school

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that school districts need to start scheduling their meetings with parents and teachers soon to seek community support for their reopening plans. Credit: Office of the Governor / Kevin P. Coughlin

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday criticized the more than 100 public school districts that he said have not yet handed in their plans to reopen from the coronavirus pandemic, including 28 on Long Island.

Among them are major districts such as Sachem, Brentwood and Syosset, he said.

"There are 107 school districts that have not submitted their plan — for those 107 school districts, how they didn't submit a plan is beyond me. If they don't submit a plan by this Friday, they can't open," Cuomo said in a morning telephonic conference call with reporters.

Districts in Nassau the state said have not submitted plans also include Carle Place, Elmont, Garden City, Lawrence, Locust Valley, Malverne, Manhasset, Mineola, New Hyde Park, Plainedge, Plainview and Uniondale.

In Suffolk, they include Brookhaven-Comsewogue, Deer Park, Longwood, Middle Country, Mount Sinai, North Babylon, Oysterponds, Remsenburg, Rocky Point, Tuckahoe Common, Wainscott Western Suffolk BOCES and Sagaponack.

A spokeswoman for 13 of the Long Island districts, including Sachem and Mineola, said they had, in fact, submitted reopening plans. The spokeswoman, Marissa Gallo, directed questions about the discrepancy to the governor’s office.

In a statement, Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi said the original list was accurate. He said some districts had filed their plans with the state Education Department but not the Department of Health.

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For those districts that have submitted plans, Cuomo said, the state was reviewing their proposals and would notify them whether they were cleared to open.

Cuomo urged school districts to schedule briefings with parents and teachers as soon as possible to seek a public review and discussion of their reopening plans.

He said the 700-plus school districts in New York needed to move quickly, as the start of the school calendar looms weeks away.

Some districts have submitted incomplete plans — including New York City, which filed a supplemental plan Friday, he said.

Districts need to hold at least three sessions with parents and one with teachers, while the urban school districts of Albany, Buffalo, Mount Vernon, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Yonkers are required to hold at least five parent meetings.

"They have to start and they have to start soon," Cuomo said. "Schedule the parent briefings. Schedule the teacher briefings ... This is not a bureaucratic approval process. This is a parental approval process, and this is an approval process where the teachers feel safe to go back."

Robert Dillon, superintendent of Nassau BOCES, said virtual meetings with parents would take place before Aug. 21.

Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin School District, said her district already has had numerous conversations with parents about reopening plans.

“Every school system that I know has already done that,” she said. “We are in constant communication with our teachers and our staff and our families.”

Later in the day, Cuomo was joined by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, also a Democrat, in a telephonic briefing calling on the federal government to pass a stimulus bill that restores aid for people who became unemployed due to the COVID-19 crisis and also provides assistance to states faced with gargantuan budget shortfalls.

Both agreed that President Donald Trump's executive action extending payments to the unemployed not only doesn't address states' budget struggles but ends up being costly to them at a time when they can ill afford it.

“I think we all know by now that COVID is not a red state or a blue state challenge," Beshear said. "It is a 50-state challenge … It’s changed the way we work. It’s made massive and likely permanent changes in our health care system. It's changing the way that we are having to raise our kids … and it’s hit our economies very hard."

Trump, in a Monday afternoon briefing, touted his plan, saying the Democrats should focus on something other than a “bailout of poorly running states.”

He instead promised “a cut in the capital-gains tax and also a cut in the middle-income income tax” to relieve pressures from the coronavirus crisis. “I think at the end of a fairly short period of time, we are going to be in very good shape in our country," Trump said.

Regions meeting threshold criteria

On Friday, Cuomo announced that schools can open for the fall because the infection level is below 5% in every region. If it surpasses 9% before school starts, he will reverse that order. If it passes 9% after schools open, he will order them shut again in that region.

The latest metrics on the COVID-19 spread in New York continue to show progress, the governor said.

Out of 54,002 tests completed Sunday, 476 people — or 0.88% — tested positive for the coronavirus, the state reported Monday. "That is a great number for us," Cuomo said.

The state lost two people to coronavirus-related illness, which Cuomo said is a significant drop since the peak of the health crisis in the spring, when nearly 800 a day were dying.

“I think all New Yorkers should feel very satisfied with the progress we have been making, to see just that two New Yorkers passed away," he said. "We don’t want to lose anyone but … that number is extraordinary relative to where we have been."

The state registered new lows in hospitalizations, patients in intensive care units and intubations linked to the virus, with 535 coronavirus patients statewide on Sunday.

The infection level was 1.2% on Long Island and 0.9% in New York City. The number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 was 35 in Nassau, 58 in Suffolk, and 237 in New York City.

Protecting 'progress we've made'

Cuomo said the focus needs to continue on "protecting the progress we've made."

Cuomo said State Troopers and State Liquor Authority agents continued a crackdown on businesses — mainly restaurants and bars — that are not complying with coronavirus mitigation regulations. Authorities issued 19 summonses for violations on Sunday, including six in Suffolk County, he said.

As some Long Island Rail Road commuters continue to complain about fellow passengers not covering their faces, Patrick Foye, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, on Monday sent a letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook urging the tech giant to modify its iPhones so that they recognize users’ faces when they are wearing masks.

Foye said MTA officials have observed customers removing their masks in order to unlock their iPhones with Face ID.

Apple representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With Alfonso A. Castillo

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