Albany, N.Y. April 10, 2021 — New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued the following statement today on revised New York State Department of Health COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools:
“As educators, we know that the best place for our students to learn is in person in the classroom. What we’ve wanted from the very beginning of the school reopening process is for that to happen in the safest possible environment.
“In adopting new physical distancing guidelines in line with CDC recommendations, the state is making it crystal clear that distancing is only one part of a layered mitigation strategy. These revised guidelines not only draw distinctions between when it’s appropriate to have three feet of distancing and when six feet of distancing is still necessary, they also mandate masks at all times and lay out specific ventilation recommendations while maintaining important provisions for cleaning, hygiene and contact tracing. What’s more, the guidelines are clear that community transmission — with a majority of New York counties currently at high levels of transmission, per CDC metrics — is a critical factor in how physical distancing changes are implemented. And before districts make changes, school communities, including parents and educators, must be given an opportunity to provide input on updates to reopening plans. That has always been and must continue to be essential to the reopening process.
“There also is more to be done to strengthen safety protocols. While the state recommends that districts ‘strongly consider’ implementing screening testing, we believe there is zero excuse for all districts not to implement routine testing as soon as possible. The federal government is making hundreds of millions of dollars available to New York schools explicitly for this purpose. It’s long past time to get this done.
“Ultimately, if changes to local reopening plans are made, it’s up to local departments of health to enforce state required guidelines. They must do so expeditiously and ensure no district is lax in sticking to a layered mitigation strategy.”
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.