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COVID-19 'New Normal' For Schools: NY Finalizing Fall Options

New York is determining how to move forward with education practices amid the novel coronavirus crisis.
New York is determining how to move forward with education practices amid the novel coronavirus crisis.

When schools potentially reopen their doors for classes in New York come the fall, they could have a very different look for students and staff.

The New York State Education Department and Board of Regents has launched a “school reopening task force” comprised of educators statewide as New York recovers from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that forced the state to transition to a “distance learning” model.

That task force held its first meeting this week, on Monday, June 15, as it looks to determine what the “new normal” will look like as the state comes out the other side of the pandemic.

State officials envision a hybrid model, which could potentially include in-person learning, as well as remote education options. When classes resume, face coverings will be required, and social distancing protocols will be enforced.

According to a survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 73 percent of those polled are planning for in-person instruction this fall. Fifteen percent are waiting to decide what to do, while 5 percent are considering a range of scenarios or proposing a hybrid model.

States in the Northeast have been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a plan for a hybrid approach for K-12 students. 

Three more task force meetings have been scheduled over the course of the next week, all virtually due to COVID-19. Those meetings are expected to help stakeholders establish guidelines for what education and classrooms may look like if schools open up for students in the fall.

"In your planning for return to school,"  said Natalie Walrond, the director of the Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety, "return to the norms and the rituals that are safe and welcoming in collaboration with your students and families reflect on your school's climate think about what's felt special, what's felt core to your school's identity and engenders a sense of belonging that you want to keep."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that schools in the state close effective Wednesday, March 18 and waived the 180-day requirement for the number of mandatory school days. Colleges in the state were directed to move to distance learning effective Thursday, March 19.

“There is no decision on the fall yet, because the fall is a long, long time away,” he said. “Schools should start preparing now, though, because this is going to be a real exercise.

“How does a school socially distance? How many more rooms would you need to do this? How many more buses do you need to socially distance on a bus,” he continued. “What about cafeterias or a dorm room? So they should start working on that now.” 

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