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State education commissioner shares in district "frustration," expresses anxiousness for updated guidance

In a memo to New York school districts, NYSED said "it is essential that schools receive whatever guidance the Governor and the DOH intend to offer."

ALBANY, N.Y. — The commissioner of the New York State Education Department said she shares in the frustration of school districts as they continuing to wait for updated guidance from the Governor and State Health Department.

In a memo issued to district superintendents, principals, charter school leaders, and non-public school leaders Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said the guidance from DOH is in development and that the latest guidelines from the CDC will serve as its basis.

Rosa expressed understanding for the "dynamic" nature of the COVID-19 pandemic amid recent variant transmission but added.

"It is essential that schools receive whatever guidance the Governor and the DOH intend to offer about the 2021-2022 school year as soon as possible to provide time for you to take necessary measures to safely welcome students in September."

The memo added that New York guidance will likely be based on the CDC's guidance for school reopening and recommended that districts use that as a roadmap.

"The best the Department can offer to schools when it comes to health-related preparations for September is that CDC guidelines should be the basis of preparing for the 2021-2022 school year until further information is issued by the Governor or DOH. The Department’s Office of Student Support Services recommends that you use the CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools as resources," the memo read. 

The Department also outlined its guidance for remote instruction:

• So long as allowed by public health officials, schools should be open for in-person teaching and learning, and students should be in school. • In case of school closures due to a declared public health emergency, schools must be prepared to provide remote instruction.

 •  While the Department will not require schools that are open for full-time, in-person instruction to provide online or remote instruction, districts may work with students and families to offer remote options if it is deemed to be in the best educational interest of the student. 

• Districts should consider the value of online capacity developed in response to the pandemic to expand programmatic offerings and to offer remote learning opportunities that are responsive to student needs. This can be done directly, through cooperative agreements with other school districts, or through Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. This can help where documented medical conditions prohibit the safe return for students to in-person instruction and where students who have otherwise struggled have excelled with remote learning.

Several superintendents have spoken to 2 On Your Side about the frustration surrounding reopening guidance, masking of students, and remote learning. The state education department shares that sentiment according to the memo:

"The urgency and frustration you are feeling as September approaches is palpable and are shared by the Department. The overall goal for the 2021-2022 school year is to maximize in-person teaching and learning, be responsive to student needs, and keep students and staff healthy and safe. Be assured the Department is engaged in continuing efforts to help develop and secure guidance to advance that goal."