The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday affirmed something Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been saying for months: Schools can operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But when can a return to full in-classroom instruction be possible? Cuomo in an interview on CNN said that will be up to local districts and likely the teachers' union.
"I think you're going to see it on a locality by locality basis, and frankly it's going to be a big item for the teachers' union," he said. "But, we know we can do the testing, we know it's safer than the surrounding community, so why wouldn't you lead if you can keep the schools open? That has been my position."
This is largely in line with Cuomo's stated philosophy on school closures, though he has urged large districts like New York City to remain open if possible.
Cuomo has been supportive of keeping schools open when it is safe to do so, pointing to an increase in testing capacity that can help a district to determine the extent of community spread. At the same time, keeping schools open is one less complication in the life of frontline and essential workers during the crisis.
"We do more testing in New York, Wolf, than any state in the country, so we know what the testing is in the community, what the infection rate is in the community, and what the infection rate is in the school," Cuomo said. "And it is, almost across the board, always lower in the school. So my position has been, keep the schools open if they're safer, plus you're actually educating children."
It's not yet clear what the effect of remote and in-classroom learning has had on student instruction. The pandemic has highlighted societal inequities, with schools being no exception.
State education officials earlier in the week announced New York would seek a federal waiver from student examinations this year, citing the pandemic and ongoing disruptions to education.
"When you go to this remote learning, there's all sorts of disparate impact on who actually has a computer, who has internet access, who has somebody to help, and it's the poor, the Black and the brown child that tends to be left behind," Cuomo said.