Coronavirus: New York schools given green light to reopen

NEW YORK (AFP) – New York schools can reopen this fall provided they meet certain criteria, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday (Aug 7), as most American children get ready to start the new academic year remotely.

Cuomo’s announcement highlights how far New York – once the epicenter of the US’ Covid-19 outbreak with more than 32,000 deaths – has come in its battle against the deadly virus.

The governor said that school districts will be allowed to resume classroom teaching in areas where the average rate of positive tests is below 5 per cent.

Most of New York state, including New York City, have hovered around the 1 per cent mark in recent weeks.

Cuomo said it was ultimately up to local officials and individual schools whether and how they reopen. Their plans would still need to be approved by the state.

“If the teachers don’t come back, then you can’t really open the schools. If the parents don’t send their students, then you’re not really opening the schools,” he said.

New York City, the largest school district in the United States with more than 1.1 million students and 1,800 public schools, is considering reopening with a hybrid model.

It would see children spend somewhere between one and three days a week in the classroom, with the rest of the time spent learning online.

A final decision on whether to reopen has not yet been taken.

Many New York school children are from low-income families whose parents are essential workers and can ill afford to homeschool. Lots of children also rely on free school meals.

Only a handful of US school districts are planning to start the school year with any form of in-person teaching.

On Wednesday, the mayor of Chicago, home to America’s third-largest school district, announced that the city was dropping its hybrid plan and that all pupils would start the new school year remotely.

New York City is the only large district hoping to get kids into the classroom.

The state’s school year is scheduled to start in September.

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