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Cuomo: Based on NYS infection rate, schools can reopen; districts must talk with parents, teachers

'He is trying to weigh the data ... before he makes this determination, and I think it could change as the situation evolves over the school year.'

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says based on the New York State's low infection rate, school districts can reopen.

However, they will watch the infection rate from now until school starts and will adjust if changes need to be made.

He says school districts now have to come up with a plan and deal with parents and teachers and they have to communicate with parents to answer their questions.  

On Thursday, Shannon Tahoe, New York's Interim Commissioner of Education, said, "He has certain indicators that he's looking at based on the data across the state, and in the various regions of the state, and I believe he'll be making a decision on that, I would expect, tomorrow."

Dr. Wendy Paterson, the Dean of the School of Education at SUNY Buffalo State, said when it comes to reopening schools there are a lot of hard questions and no easy answers.

"Is it good for kids to be in a physical school? Absolutely, but right now I think the virus is in control and so we have to look at both safety and the ability to simulate or at least provide instruction the best we can regardless of the decisions that are made," Paterson said. 

She told 2 On Your Side that even if students are back in the classroom, the learning environment will be very different, due to physical distancing and other precautions.

With a remote option, there are several concerns too, ranging from lack of socialization to internet access and, of course, adult supervision.

"Parents should be able to get information, to access information from their own schools, from their teachers. There will be a lot of contact between teachers and children so the schools are really preparing for either eventuality," Paterson said.

Paterson also believes it's critical districts address the social and emotional challenges students might be facing.

"One of the things that we're most concerned about is that all of our children have experienced this same trauma, and there are things that we need to be aware of when children go through trauma and how we help them to articulate how that makes them feel, the fears that they have, the worries that they're maybe too young to put names to," Paterson said.

However, she told 2 On Your Side, educators have been preparing for months to take on what this new academic year might bring.

"A lot of teachers are gearing up but the pressure is great," Paterson said, adding, "What we need to do is to help them be in an environment where the greatest learning will take place."

With an announcement from the governor expected Friday, there will likely be more direction for schools and districts.

However, the situation is still fluid. 

Regarding the governor's upcoming decision, Tahoe explained, "He is trying to weigh the data regionally and statewide before he makes this determination, and I think it could change as the situation evolves over the school year. The infection rate might change, and the data might change, and he might have to make a different decision depending on what the infection rate is."