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De Blasio: New York City schools will open in fall. Cuomo: We’ll see about that

Syracuse.com logo Syracuse.com 7/2/2020 By Erik Bascome, syracuse.com

New York — Well, this sure seems familiar.

Just hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City public schools would reopen their doors to students this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office issued a statement saying that the mayor does not have the authority to reopen city schools.

“The state law governing schools and business closings or openings has been in effect since the pandemic first started, and all such decisions are made by state government and not local government. Of course the state consults with local stakeholders, and when it comes to opening schools in New York City we will consult with parents, teachers, health officials and local elected officials — but the governor has said any determination is premature at this point, and we will need to see how the virus develops,” said Dani Lever, communications director for the governor’s office.

Lever said that the governor has asked all school districts to develop reopening plans, but could not yet commit to reopening next school year with the existing information.

“The governor has also told all school districts to have plans ready for the ‘new normal’ in the event schools can open. The governor hopes schools will reopen, but will not endanger the health of students or teachers, and will make the determination once we have more current information,” Lever said.

“We value the opinion of local politicians and the state’s 700 local school districts as to what should be done, but the public should not be confused on this important decision that has practical consequences for many,” she continued.

The Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the statement from the Cuomo administration.

The immediate state-level show-down of a city-announced school decision comes as no surprise, as nearly the exact same situation unfolded in April when de Blasio announced that schools would remain closed through the end of the school year and Cuomo immediately responded that he did not have the authority to make that decision.

ABOUT MAYOR’S ANNOUNCEMENT

On Thursday, de Blasio announced that New York City public schools will reopen their doors to students in September with various health and safety protocols in place and specialized plans to accommodate each school’s unique learning community.

“We’re full steam ahead for September,” de Blasio said. “The goal, of course, is to the have the maximum number of kids in our schools as we begin school.”

“Each school will have a number that is the maximum number of kids who can be in that school with social distancing — using every conceivable space in that school. We’re going to convert everything that can be converted to a classroom into a classroom to accommodate social distancing,” he continued.

The mayor acknowledged that it will be difficult to devise plans that allow for adequate social distancing, but emphasized that the city is working hard with each school to determine the safest way for reopening.

“We know that there’s going to be a lot of challenges, just sheer logistical challenges, with schools that were overcrowded before the coronavirus and now have to practice social distancing, but we’re going to make it work to the maximum in each school,” de Blasio said.

According to the Department of Education (DOE) Enrollment, Capacity and Utilization Report, which provides an assessment of capacity for each school and school building to assist in space utilization, four Staten Island public high schools, two intermediate schools, and 34 public elementary schools, were overcrowded during the 2017-2018 school year.

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is scheduled to meet with public school principals on Thursday to discuss individualized plans based on the capacity limits of each school building.

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