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Ramapo Daily Voice serves Airmont, Chestnut Ridge, Hillburn, Hillcrest, Kaser, Monsey, Montebello, Mount Ivy, New Hempstead, New Square, Pomona, Sloatsburg, Spring Valley, Suffern, Tallman, Viola & Wesley Hills

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COVID-19: These Steps Are Needed To Safely Reopen Schools, NY State Teachers Union Says

Classrooms could be open as soon as September in New York.
Classrooms could be open as soon as September in New York. Photo Credit: Pixabay

With the state set to announce in less than a month plans for reopening schools in the fall, the New York State Teachers Union has offered guidance on how to best get students back in the classroom.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta released a statement following New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing an official timeline for when a decision will be made on school reopening.

The state will provide public guidelines from the New York State Education Department to districts on Monday, July 13, and school districts will have to submit their proposed plans by Friday, July 31.

Once districts send their plans, the state will evaluate them and then announce sometime between Saturday, Aug. 1, and Friday, Aug. 7 how schools will reopen for the fall semester in each region.

“Health and safety of students, families, educators and other school staff, and equitable access to a high-quality education must be the top priorities in reopening schools,” Pallotta said. "The federal government’s demands that schools reopen without concern for health, safety, and equity are simply out of touch.”

The intricate details of reopening may be complex and differ from school district to school district, there are simple points the union believes must be addressed:

  • Have PPE available for every student and staff member;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting protocols must in place following federal health guidelines;
  • Social distancing and face coverings will be required;
  • Accommodations must be in place for students and staff who are at higher risk for contracting the virus to ensure they can limit their exposure;
  • Adequate mental health services must be available to address the psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students;
  • Core academic subjects, arts, music, social services, and other school services must be available for all students, and the technology to access those things remotely as necessary must be available no matter a student’s ZIP code.

“We need two things to make all of this a reality, Pallotta added. Parents and school staff must have a seat at the table locally to work out the details that are best for their communities.

“Second, we need the federal and state funding that absolutely will be necessary to do this safely and equitably. This isn’t a matter of whether we can do this right. We must.”

The NYSUT said the "health and safety of students, families, educators and other school staff, and equitable access to a high-quality education must be the top priorities in reopening schools.

Pallotta praised New York’s handling of reopening the schools safely, while taking a shot at the White House’s handling of the pandemic.

"The federal government’s demands that schools reopen without concern for health, safety, and equity are simply out of touch,” he said. “Thankfully here in New York, we know the governor, the Regents, and fellow education stakeholders are taking this seriously.”

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