State education officials on Monday released a framework guidance for schools if they move forward in the coming weeks with in-person instruction.
Update: Gov. Andrew Cuomo later at a news conference released the criteria for whether a school can reopen.
Schools that reopen must be in fourth phase of reopening and the daily infection rate must remain below 5 percent or lower using a 14-day average.
Schools can close if the regional infection rate is above 9 percent on a 7-day average.
Cuomo said the decision will be based on the data available.
"It's purely on the numbers, purely on the science," Cuomo said.
The guidance includes plans for health checks, face coverings in schools, plans for maximizing social distancing in schools, and the isolation of people who become ill.
There remain, however, a lot of "ifs" in the plan: There's no guarantee schools will open their physical buildings by September in New York. A combination of distancing learning and staggered in-person instruction might also continue.
A full determination on reopening schools will not be made until the first week of August.
The guidance released by the State Education Department focused largely on health and safety, nutrition, emotional well being, safe transportation, budgetary challenges, flexibility in scheduling, technological hurdles for continued distancing learning as well as the unique issues facing special education.
In all, the challenges for schools will be both sweeping and specific in their scope that go beyond simply learning in the classroom in the middle of a pandemic.
For example, the guidance calls for school districts to perform regular school bus disinfection measures, train bus staff for social distancing at stops and unloading and wear face coverings.
Schools will also be required to continue to provide students with meals each day whether the students are in the building or learning from home while also ensuring health and safety guidelines are followed.
“Creating a framework to reopen New York’s schools has been an undertaking of paramount effort, made even more difficult by the devastating impact the pandemic has had here in New York State,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa. “This framework and the guidance which will follow allows schools to plan for the upcoming school year under three different scenarios that aim to keep our children, educators and school personnel safe and encourages equitable access to high-quality services for all students.”
Schools have been closed since the pandemic began to spread in New York in March, and students, families and teachers alike have struggled with the challenge of learning from home.
At the same time, families are preparing for scenarios in which students remain at home to learn, but parents and guardians are returning to work.
President Trump has sought to pressure schools districts and states to reopen school buildings by tying the move to federal funding.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said schools won't reopen fully or partially unless it is safe to do so. That decision rests with state officials, Cuomo said this month.
“As we began to look at how we would consider reopening schools, we quickly recognized that we need to hear from as many people as possible to be sure the diverse voices of all New Yorkers are represented,” Interim Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe said. “The input we received from participants at our regional task force meetings and our student forum truly proved invaluable and, by working together, we will be able to ensure that the issues of health, safety, and educational equity are at the forefront of every decision.”