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Cuomo calls for schools to go back to in-person learning in September

A WNY superintendent says he agrees and would also like to see the three-foot social distancing rule go away.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo says he expects all schools across the state to be open for in-person learning this September.

The Governor was asked about this on Monday because New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced on Monday that New York City Schools would get rid of the remote option in the fall.

Governor Cuomo stressed that this could all change depending on the pandemic numbers, but as of right now, he says he doesn't see any reason why every school wouldn't be open in September. He says there would be a state-wide policy to cover all districts. 

"We have to get back to school, and on the current trajectory, there's no reason why we can't open schools statewide in September, and it will be, I believe, all across the state," said Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

"I think the statement stopped a little short today about not having a remote option because I don't, for one, believe that having that remote option out there is appropriate in September. I think that there are certain circumstances, or certain conditions, that a local decision could make for a student to remain remote, but I think across the board it has to be said that there is no remote option unless a district has a particular reason to do that for a student, but by all means, students need to be back in school in September," said Niagara Falls City School District Supt. Mark Laurrie.

Supt. Laurrie also says he is hoping younger students are allowed to get the vaccine by the time next school year starts. He says his district has had barely any staff members with COVID-19 over the past two months and vaccination rates among staff members are high.

"I really think that when you're down to three-feet, you're almost down to nothing. Really. To get closer than three-feet in a classroom is pretty close personal space, so I don't think there should be a feet restriction. I have no problem, I have no problem at all with masks in classrooms, or when kids are closely together. I think there should be, again, local autonomy to make those decisions that if you're in a phys ed class, you're outside, you're spread out because of some other reasons, that it's okay to take your mask down, but I have no problem with masks, but I think that mandate for three-feet should go away," says Supt. Laurrie.

Supt. Laurrie says academically, socially, and emotionally the students need in-person learning. He added that by making the announcement now, the Governor is giving school districts enough time to plan unlike last year when decisions about what the school year would look like were not made until August.

The state's teachers union, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) released the following statement following the governor's comments:

“Educators know that being in person is the best way for students to learn and for teachers to teach. We support offering full-time in-person instruction five days a week and await formal guidance for the fall on how districts, working with educators and parents, should craft their plans to bring all students back to the classroom.”