WANTAGH, N.Y. (WIVB) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that unless there is a “dramatic change” in the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, all schools should be open statewide for the new school year in September.
“We have to get back to school,” the governor said during an event at Jones Beach on Long Island. “On the current trajectory, there is no reason why we can’t open schools statewide in September.
“And it will be, I believe, all across the state.”
While the governor says schools are set to open for full in-person learning in September, it was not immediately clear whether parents would have the ability to opt their children out of in-person learning. Current state rules require districts to implement policies for “individuals who may not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment.”
Buffalo Public Schools announced last week they were planning to open schools five days a week in September, but students would be given the option of starting the school year remotely. It is unclear whether that strategy would comply with the plan the governor laid out Monday.
A spokesperson for BPS did not immediately share any information regarding how this development would impact their plan for Fall 2021. A New York State Department of Health spokesperson did not immediately clarify whether students could opt to start the 2021-22 school year remotely.
State guidance for school districts during the 2021-22 school year has not yet been released. Cuomo said the state would be setting a statewide policy.
“We look forward to receiving updated guidance from the State to continue preparations for the 2021-2022 school year,” Nick Filipowski, a spokesperson for the Williamsville Central School District, said in an email.
Michael Cornell, the superintendent of the Hamburg Central School District, and president of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association, said it would be helpful to have the guidance by June 4.
“We need it sometime before everybody leaves for the school year,” Cornell said. “Planning for September happens in March, April, and May. “Come June, July, and August, we’re putting the finishing touches on it.”
Currently in Hamburg, Cornell says more than 90% of the student population is learning in-person. The remainder is opting to learn remotely.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.