Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he will hold off on making a decision about whether schools can reopen for a new school year until early August.
The state will issue final guidances to the 700 school districts statewide by July 13 so that districts can submit their plans, by July 31, for how classes will be held safely if school were allowed to reopen.
Cuomo will render a decision between August 1 – 7. The state will only open school doors if it is safe to do so.
“We want to make that decision with the best available data. The facts change here, day to day, week to week,” Cuomo said during a press conference Wednesday. “As we can see, a week can be a lifetime with this COVID virus.”
He said school officials have to know by the end of the first week of August so that they can have everything ready to go by early September, when classes usually resume.
Meanwhile, President Trump is pushing for schools to reopen. Cuomo said he was well aware of what the President had to say—including a Tweet in which he threatened to withhold federal funding to schools that refuse to open. The governor was steadfast that the federal government has no say in the matter. “This is getting a little old as far as I’m concerned,” he said, adding it was a redux of the President’s push for economic reopening when it was a state decision.
“School reopenings are a state decision. Period. That is the law and that is the way we’re going to proceed. It’s not up to the President of the United States. There is something called constitution that guides government power . . . the president does not have the authority to open schools.”
Cuomo said opening schools is something everyone wants to see happen. Closing schools in mid-March because of the pandemic has had impacts on children, including socialization. But reopening schools also has ties to the economic recovery.
“Yes, we all want to open schools, but we want it to be safe. And the test that I bring to all of these things—day camps, overnight camps—is my child test. I am not going to ask anyone to put their child in a situation that I would not put my child in and that’s how I make these decisions,” he said.
On a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the reopening of schools should not be a divisive or a political issue.
“We certainly cannot have a whole generation of kids that are falling behind. We know the devastating impact that would have. We need to implement plans to do this in a safe way. Those are being developed,” he said.
But reopening is also a question of resources, including financial disaster assistance.