New York state education officials have released detailed guidelines for reopening schools, but there's no guarantee teachers and students will be fully back in the classroom in two months.
The guidelines for reopening schools is long — a novel's worth of regulations covering everything from temperature checks to mask wearing and social distancing on buses.
"The statement that it was voluminous, we were worried what it actually meant," said Tom Douglas, the superintendent of the Horseheads Central School District in the Southern Tier. "When we got the document, all my fellow superintendents, it's a lengthy document — 153 pages, I believe."
Douglas says parents should not expect their schools to reopen like before the pandemic.
"I do not preclude from the document that a lot of schools across the state are going to be able to have 100 percent of people return on day one and be in classes," he said. "I just don't see how financially, how according to the guidelines, we're going to be able to meet that."
The expectation is many schools will be operating on the so-called hybrid model of distance learning and in-classroom instruction. But even with some students and teachers back, New York State United Teachers president Andy Pallotta expects it will be expensive.
"The whole process should be safe," Pallotta said. "Our expectation is this is going to be a lot of work. It will be a lot of work for everyone and it will also cost money."
Ian Rosenblum of the Buffalo-based Education Trust-New York says many school districts across the state were already lagging behind.
"The pandemic then exacerbated those inequities and made them even worse for our students who have been historically underserved by our education system," he said.
Masks alone for some school districts like Horseheads could cost $250,000 for a supply lasting the school year.
"Everything revolves around the health and safety of the educators, the teachers, the paraprofessionals, the bus drivers and the children, of course," Pallotta said. "When we go back to school we want to make sure it's a healthy and safe environment."
Schools must submit plans for reopening on July 31. A final decision on reopening is expected from Governor Andrew Cuomo the first week of August.