State lawmakers want new guidance for school reopenings

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Signs inside a school, January 2021 (Nexstar)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Capital Region Assemblymembers Angelo Santabarbara and John T. McDonald III published a letter asking the state to provide more guidance for schools.

The letter—addressed to New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker—makes the case that families and school staff need time to prepare for the school year, and the more time they have, the better.

With September fast approaching, the politicians say that administrators need to understand what, if any, options can may change for the upcoming semester, and under which circumstances. Specifically, the letter questions how snow days will be treated.

Take a look at the letter below:

We write to ask for specific guidance related to school reopenings for Fall 2021. While the Governor has indicated that the plan is for full school reopenings, we believe that official guidance is necessary to allow our schools to prepare in the event of any changes and to determine their plans for the fall. In May 2021, we receive a letter from 92 school superintendents from BOCES regions asking for additional guidance for fall 2021. While we understand that circumstances have changed significantly since then and there have been changes in the guidance that include loosened restrictions, that letter was sent to NYS DOH and is awaiting response.

These superintendents need appropriate time to prepare for the upcoming school year and while COVID-19 has taught us that unpredictability is something that is unavoidable at times, they are trying to be proactive and that is commendable. The confusion regarding the ever-changing regulatory landscape has led to confusion and these superintendents are only seeking to avoid such confusion in the future. Realistically the districts needed answers by July 1st and as the month movers on it is even more critical if we are to plan for a full school opening in September.

In addition, caregivers and families need to be prepared for how snow days will be handled and if in the unfortunate event there were a change in course regarding our COVID case numbers, what the plans would be. For example, New York City has determined that in the upcoming school year, snow days will be treated as virtual learning days. In terms of child care, families need to time prepare if that model were to be replicated elsewhere. As a reminder, many individuals relied on older siblings and relatives for childcare this past year and the lack of clear direction is impacting not only the preparation for schools but also is contributing to the challenges for restoring daycares to full operation. As you know, once daycare is stabilized more individuals can return to full-time work which is important for the families and our economy.

Thank you and we would be happy to discuss further and look forward to your response.

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