Who knew that the words to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” would be so prescient? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced during his May 1 press briefing that the state’s schools would remain closed for the remainder of the year due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
Cuomo noted that schools had initially been closed on March 18 and that the state had waived the 180-day requirement, or the regulation stating that all schools had to have at least 180 days of teaching in place. Schools were then compelled to provide their homebound students with distancing learning, meal delivery services and childcare options for those workers deemed “essential.” (Colleges and universities were also moved to distance learning on March 19.) “That has actually worked out well,” said Cuomo. “Not perfectly—we had to do it in a rush, and there are lessons that we can learn here that could change teaching going forward.”
By way of an explanation for the decision, Cuomo noted that schools have a higher population density on their grounds and that they don’t have the proper Personal Protective Equipment stockpiled to ensure their students’ and educators’ safety. In all, the state includes 700 public school districts, with 4,800 schools and 2.59 million students; 1,800 private schools, with 400,000 students; 89 SUNY/CUNY campuses, with 700,000 students; and more than 100 private colleges, including Saratoga Springs’ Skidmore College, with 500,000 students—in all, 4.2 million students.
“Given the circumstances that we’re in and the precautions that would have to be put in place to come up with a plan to reopen schools with all those new protocols,” asked Cuomo, rhetorically, “how do you operate a school that’s socially distanced? With masks? Without mass gatherings? With the public transportation system that has a lower number of students on it? How would you get that plan up and running?” He continued: “We don’t think it’s possible to do that in a way that would keep our children and students and educators safe, so we’re going to have the schools remain closed for the rest of the year.”