ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN)- President Joe Biden said getting students safely back in the classroom is a top priority for his administration. On Wednesday he announced $650 million would be used to expand testing in schools and for underserved populations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out new guidance for schools to reopen schools on Friday. Based on that guidance, most schools in New York could resume in-person instruction, according to the New York State County COVID-19 Dashboard infection rates.
“We know the benefits the classroom setting and the support services delivered by schools provide our students. Especially those from low-resourced, racial and ethnic minority communities, and children with disabilities” said CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a press conference Friday.
New York mandated schools to switch to remote learning sending students home for what would be the remainder of the school year last March. Planning ahead for continued COVID-19 spread, school districts submitted plans for the 2020-2021 school year. Many school districts in the Capital Region opted for a hybrid plan involving both in-person and remote learning.
What the newly released CDC guidance regarding in-person instruction means for this and the 2021-2022 school years remains unknown.
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) held a series of task force meetings during the summer to address some issues related to remote learning such as lack of technology and internet service, providing meals, social distancing in classrooms, and meeting the needs of students struggling to learn from home.
No formal response has been made from NYSED regarding the CDC’s new guidelines. WTEN contacted NYSED for comment, they said to contact the N.Y. Department of Health (DOH). WTEN reached out to the DOH for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday but has yet to get a response.
“Today’s (Friday’s) CDC guidance on safely operating schools during the pandemic confirms what New York educators have been saying all along. We all believe students learn best in classrooms, but that must be done in the safest way possible,” said New York State United Teachers President (NYSUT), Andy Pallotta.
NEWS10 followed up with NYSUT Wednesday. “Our advocacy centers on encouraging more school districts to implement a local testing program as part of their comprehensive strategies that also include CDC requirements like mask-wearing and proper social distancing. We believe if they can take additional steps — like testing — to build confidence in reopening plans, they should,” said NYSUT Press Secretary, Matt Hamilton.
In November Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a “cluster plan” for schools. Among other things, the plan requires schools to do surveillance testing and switch to remote learning based on infection rate, hospitalization rate, and week over week increases.
The focus of COVID-19 updates from Gov. Cuomo has been centered around how COVID-19 related nursing home deaths were previously counted. The governor has yet to speak in detail about what the new CDC guidelines mean for school districts.
WTEN also reached out to the Governor’s Office on Wednesday for comment but they had not responded by the time of publication.