Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo predicted Monday that schools throughout the state will reopen for in-person learning in September and he will set a statewide policy. His comments came after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city's schools will fully reopen in the fall with no remote learning option.
During a news conference at Jones Beach State Park, Cuomo said that barring a "dramatic change in the COVID trajectory," the schools will open.
"We have to get back to school," Cuomo said, pointing toward the statewide daily infection rate hovering around 1%. "And behind the current trajectory there is no reason we can’t open schools statewide in September."
While Cuomo said policy details will be forthcoming, he seemed to indicate a preference against continuing to allow virtual education, arguing that it discriminated against poorer, minority households.
"Remote learning sounds fine and worked fine enough for some students," Cuomo said. "But some students paid a very heavy price for remote learning. Remote learning only works if you're in a home that has equipment; in a home that has access to Internet; if you’re in a home where there’s someone who can help the student with issues."
Bill Heidenreich, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, said they were awaiting direction and protocols from Cuomo's office "so that we can properly plan to i mplement these guidelines as we welcome our students and staff back to school in September in the safest manner possible."
In a statement Tuesday, Suffolk County School Superintendents Association Ronald Masera said "there is no uniform decision as a county at this time" pending "updated guidance" from state and county health officials. "We are excited to welcome our students and staff back to school in September and look forward to a safe return for all," he said.
.New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said the union supported full-time, in-person classes and is waiting on "formal guidance" from the state.
Cuomo's comments came hours after de Blasio, his frequent political rival, announced that city schools would ditch remote learning when the school year begins Sept. 13.
"It's time for everyone to come back. It's time for us all to be together," de Blasio said during a City Hall news briefing. "It's time to do things the way they were meant to be done. All the kids in the classroom together."
New York City had a positivity rate of 0.6% as of Saturday, while providers in the five boroughs have distributed nearly four million complete vaccine series, according to state data.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said masks and social distancing will remain mandatory in city schools based on current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We would not be doing this if our schools were not safe." She noted that positivity rates in schools are 0.16%.
The mayor said parents seeking reassurance about reopening will be invited in June, and throughout the summer, to visit their children's schools and see how they are prepared.
Even amid unknowns about coronavirus variants, de Blasio said it was extremely unlikely the city schools would have to fall back on remote learning again.
"I can't conceive of it based on all the facts we know now," de Blasio said. "
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, supported the decision.
"There is no substitute for in-person instruction," Mulgrew said in a statement.
But the union leader said he has concerns about the safety of a small number of students with extreme medical challenges. "For that small group of students, a remote option may still be necessary," he said.
De Blasio said children with "particular, severe circumstances" will be accommodated as they were under pre-pandemic rules.
During the current school year, families have been given the choice to keep their children in all-remote learning, or to send them to school buildings with an option to leave again if they changed their minds.
With John Valenti and Matthew Chayes