ALBANY — New York's public schools must stay closed for the remainder of the current academic year and should begin working on reopening plans, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.
"We must protect our children, students and educators,'' Cuomo said, adding: "We're going to err on the side of caution now."
The teachers' union has been arguing that schools should not reopen unless vigorous testing and cleaning protocols were put in place.
A decision on whether summer school programs will take place will be made at the end of May, Cuomo said.
If the buildings have to remain closed, the governor said, the summer programs will take place via distance learning.
Remote learning programs will continue for the remainder of the current academic year, Cuomo said.
Using his executive powers, Cuomo, in March, waived a mandate that schools be open for 180 days of the academic calendar in order to qualify for state funding.
"The big question is going to be whether you are going to be ready to reopen schools in September," Cuomo said.
More than 18,000 New Yorkers have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus in less than two month, including 289 new fatalities reported over the past day. The trajectory of death from the contagion has been steadily dropping in New York over the past three weeks.
Cuomo said reopening schools poses "issues" when it comes to social distancing measures and transportation of children to classrooms.
"How does a school socially distance?" Cuomo asked, rhetorically.
While the decision that schools remain shut applies to all of the approximately 700 school districts across New York, the governor said decisions on summer camp programs will be linked to regional reopening plans which have yet to be issued.
The state's current shutdown order, applying to all businesses deemed "nonessential," expires May 15. Cuomo said a decision on whether to extend that will come before that date.
This is a breaking news story that is expected to have additional developments.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com.