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Local schools can open in the fall, with new rules

Schools will be able to reopen in the fall, as long as their regions can keep COVID-19 infection rates low and if districts follow mask, distancing and disinfecting rules meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Schools in regions that have reached Phase 4 of the coronavirus reopening plan — which the North Country has reached — will be allowed to open, given that the daily infection rate remains 5% or lower over a 14-day average.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks when they cannot distance themselves 6 feet apart.

The state Board of Regents has made exceptions allowing teachers and substitutes to teach longer, and also for longer in subjects in which they are not certified.

The usual weekly 180 minutes of instruction requirement will be waived.

The state has provided more guidance on what school will look like in the fall on Monday but will make a final determination in August.

“If the infection rate goes over 9%, then we we hit an emergency stop button,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference. “You reopen if it is safe to reopen. How do you know if its safe? You look at the data. We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

Each school district is to submit a reopening plan to the state by July 31, choosing to reopen as usual, switch to fully remote learning or do a combination of the two.

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania said his district is currently creating its plan. He said he’s glad to have the flexibility of a couple of options. He said he believes that with proper safety measures, it will be safe to open in the fall.

Catania said staff will be glad to have students back in the classroom. He said his district is currently working out how classes will be run as it hosts a small group of students in the building for summer school, adding that staff have been happy to see the kids again.

Asked if he believes students will adhere to the mask and social distancing rules, Catania said they will do as well with this as the adults do, saying they follow their elders’ lead. He said that means adults in and outside of the school should be good role models and wear their masks when they are supposed to.

State Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, called on the state to provide schools with hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment, citing concerns about the financial burden on schools and for public health. He said it is “the least New York state can do.”

“Many school administrators, teachers, faculty and concerned parents from our local schools have reached out to my office with concerns about acquiring PPE and hand sanitizer for the upcoming school year as New York state releases more guidance for reopening,” Jones said in a press release.

“Whether school districts can afford PPE and hand sanitizer should not have to be a factor in this decision because these items are a necessity for school districts to reopen safely.”

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