Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday the breakdown of requirements New York State regions will have to meet in order to reopen its schools.

Cuomo said schools will reopen if a region is in Phase 4 and the daily infection rate remains below 5% on an average of 14 days.

Schools will close if the regional infection rate is greater than 9% on a seven-day average after Aug. 1.

The schools that meet the opening requirement will get the green light on Aug. 1, but if the regional infection rate spikes between then and the school reopening date — and the rate is over 9% — Cuomo said they will “hit an emergency stop button.”

This announcement comes after Long Island’s Suffolk and Nassau counties entered Phase 4 on July 8. The only area not in this phase is New York City, which is still in Phase 3.

“Everybody wants to reopen the schools, I want to reopen the schools — you reopen if it is safe to reopen,” Cuomo said. “How do you know that it’s safe? You look at the data.”

During Cuomo’s recent briefing, he said New York will make a “formula determination” on whether or not to reopen schools this fall during the first week of August.

The Reimagine Education Advisory Council came up with a set of guiding principles schools will be required to follow once they reopen.

The 700 school districts across the state will be left to come up with a specific plan under the guidelines.

These guidelines are the following:

  • Districts must develop flexible plans.
  • Enact safeguards to protect the health of students and employees, using masks and social distancing.
  • Prioritize in-classroom instruction, specifically for students that need it the most.
  • Maximize use of available space in school as well as in the community to expand in-class instruction.
  • Focus on arts, career and technical education, labs, and other areas that are better for in-person instruction.
  • Utilize innovative models such as community schools.
  • Establish best practices for hybrid and remote learning and share best practices with other districts.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders and communicate and share plans widely.

The New York State Department of Health said whenever students or staff cannot maintain social distancing, masks are required. The NYSDOH released the following mask and PPE equipment guidelines for schools:

  • Face coverings are strongly recommended at all times; except for meals and classroom instruction even with social distancing.
  • Districts can require face coverings even during instruction, in communities with higher infection rates
  • Schools should include a plan for mask breaks for students when students can socially distance.

The guidelines also include social distancing barriers and cohort structures to limit potential exposure to the virus. Masks and social distancing will be required on school buses and every child and staff member entering the schools will be screened, Cuomo said.

The full list of guidelines for schools can be seen here.

Cuomo emphasized NY schools can not reopen unless the COVID-19 virus is “under control.”

“We are not going to use our children as a litmus test and we are not going to put our children in a place where their health is in danger,” Cuomo said.

“We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

Continue to follow GreaterLongIsland for updates on New York’s reopening plan.

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