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New York State will allow schools in certain regions to bring students back for in-person classes this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press briefing today.

Schools may choose to reopen in regions that have entered Phase Four of reopening, so long as those regions have a two-week average infection rate of less than 5%, Cuomo said.

Almost every region in the state currently meets this criteria. The infection rate in all seven regions is around 1%, and every region has entered Phase Four except for New York City, which is currently scheduled to transition to Phase Four on July 20.

“Everybody wants to reopen the schools,” Cuomo said. “You reopen if it’s safe to reopen. We’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is endangered. We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

Each district will decide on an individual basis if classes will be in-person, remote or a combination of both. New York City, for example, is considering staggering classes so that students receive two to three days of in-person instruction each week to maintain social distancing.

Riverhead Central School District has not yet announced what its plans are for September.

School districts have until July 31 to publicly release their reopening plans. The state will issue decisions on reopening plans during the first week of August.

Plans must include details about how school districts will comply with the state’s extensive reopening requirements, which will be released Wednesday.

After August 1, school districts must cancel in-person instruction if their region’s seven-day average infection rate surpasses 9%, Cuomo said.

Today’s presentation gave a first glimpse into how local classrooms could look this fall.

Daily temperature checks will be given to all students and staff to screen for coronavirus infections, according to early guidance released today. Masks will be required for students and staff in any situation where social distancing cannot be maintained, including on school buses. 

Students may remove masks for instruction and meals, but districts may choose to require masks even during classroom instruction if infection rates rise, according to the guidance.

Meals may be served in classrooms as well as the cafeteria if there is not enough space to maintain social distancing in the cafeteria alone.

School districts should consider in-person instruction for high-needs students and preschoolers with disabilities “a priority,” the guidance says.

Districts must also gather information about the level of access to the internet in each student and teacher’s home. Districts must, if possible, address the need of students and teaches who don’t have sufficient access to an internet-connected device. 

The state is also relaxing some education regulations this school year to give districts flexibility to meet the safety guidance. Details about those changes are available in a separate presentation made by the New York Board of Regents this morning.

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Katie Morosky
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie