State education officials have released long-awaited guidelines for in-person instruction in New York schools. New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta, however, said Monday in an interview the guidance lacks a clear plan for testing in all districts.
“That doesn’t give us confidence,” he said. “How long will take the state to get that program going where they’re doing all the testing?”
New York has received millions of dollars in aid to boost COVID testing across the state. For NYSUT, strengthened COVID testing will be crucial to any full reopening.
Still, the guidance put in place by state officials is leading some to hope the corner is being turned on what has upended educational settings for children over the last 12 months.
Remote learning has been little substitute, and there are concerns children’s mental health has suffered as well as retaining basic skills.
And yet, others remain skeptical, arguing the guidance needs to be further fleshed out.
The guidance also puts in place a CDC recommendation of spacing desks three feet apart and the removal of barriers. But Pallotta says that draws concerns, too.
“But yet when we go into a store we’re still six feet from the person in front of us and there’s still Plexiglas when you get to the cashier,” Pallott said. “So I see issues with this ruling and following through and nothing being added to increase safety.”
Schools have been operating on a so-called hybrid model during the pandemic, with some students learning remotely, others coming into the classroom.
“Keeping kids safe, keeping adults safe and keeping our schools open, I think that’s positive for the social-emotional development for all of our students and sets us in the right track for September, hopefully a full re-opening,” said Tom Douglas, the superintendent of the Horseheads Central School District in Chemung County.
There are still some questions over what would trigger a closure of schools again as the pandemic continues, Douglas said.
“I think they’re going to be a little ambiguity because no one wants to make that decision and ultimately schools will have to make that decision,” he said.
As for testing, Douglas said his district already has that system in place after initially being under an orange zone designation by the state.
“We have a little leg up,” he said. “We were required to do testing, so we’ve been doing testing ever since we were allowed to reopen and our county was able to secure the tests for us.”
Meanwhile, it will still take some time to vaccinate all children to qualify them for the vaccine as officials look to full distribution by 2022.