SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– The New York State Education Department called out Governor Cuomo and the State Health Department Thursday for their decision to not give school districts guidance for reopening schools during a pandemic.
The State Education Department released a statement saying in part:
The circumstances enveloping the Executive Chamber this week should not prevent the Department of Health from the execution of its responsibilities to the public, as has been promised by the Governor’s office for months.Statement from New York State Education Department
The State Education Department statement was in response to an earlier statement from New York’s Health Commissioner saying because the state of emergency has been rescinded, his office will not be putting out school reopening guidance.
With the end of the state disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are reestablished as the controlling entity for schools. Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in-person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments.Statement from New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker
This announcement means that each individual school district will have to work with their local health departments to decide on how they will reopen, including whether masks will be required for students and staff.
Some superintendents weren’t surprised by this announcement including Dr. Donna DeSiato, Superintendent of East Syracuse Minoa Central School District.
“If we knew back in June that we were no longer in an emergency status then it would have been helpful to inform us of that sooner, having said that though, I think we now know it and we will move forward,” DeSiato said.
Her district’s reopening committee will reconvene next week to go over CDC guidance for schools and meet with local health leaders to make an informed decision about how to reopen.
Liverpool Superintendent, Mark Potter, said he was in a similar boat and is scheduled to meet with the State Education Commissioner on Tuesday to talk about the next steps.
As for Central Square Central School District, Superintendent Tom Colabufo said he’s already met with the Oswego County Health Department who said the reopening guidance will be up to each individual school district and their Chief Medical Officer.
“I had a conversation with her yesterday and she is in agreement with me actually I’m in agreement with her and that is that given the current situation right now the high vaccination rate across our community definitely across our staff and the low transmission rates we that have right now we’re not experiencing cases, if this were to stay similar to this we have no problem of not having a mask mandate for our students,” Colabufo said.
This means that as long as the current COVID-19 conditions in Central Square don’t change too much, masks will be optional for students regardless of vaccination status and only required for non-vaccinated staff members. Colabufo said he was thrilled that the state decided to leave it up to the schools because it allows each district to decide what to do based on their specific COVID-19 data.
As for schools in Madison County, the County Health Director, Eric Faisst told NewsChannel 9 in a statement that they will not be issuing any local mandates pertaining to schools and that it will be up to each school district to adopt the CDC guidance or not.
Other school districts like Syracuse City School District told NewsChannel 9 in a statement that they will continue to work with CDC guidance and the Onondaga County Health Department to determine how they will reopen.