More than a dozen New York lawmakers from both parties this week, in a letter to the state Department of Health, urged officials there to release updated guidance for schools to fully reopen in the fall.
Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat who represents the Albany area, released the letter along with fellow Democratic and Republican lawmakers from the Capital Region.
"These superintendents need appropriate time to prepare for the upcoming school year and while COVID-19 has taught us that unpredictability is something that is unavoidable at times, they are trying to be proactive and that is commendable," the letter states. "The confusion regarding the ever-changing regulatory landscape has led to confusion and these superintendents are only seeking to avoid such confusion in the future. Realistically, the districts needed answers by July 1, and as the month moves on, it is even more critical if we are to plan for a full school opening in September."
The letter comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released its own federally approved guidance for reopening, which makes mask wearing optional for staff and students who have been vaccinated. But the specifics of New York schools fully reopening is yet to be released.
Details of reopening schools for full-time instruction would come after more than a year of deep uncertainty for school districts across the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools operated on a largely mixed model of remote learning and in-classroom instruction, but concerns remain that many students, especially those from lower-income families, have fallen behind academically as a result.
The lawmakers noted in the letter a reopening plan would also provide certainty for parents and guardians to plan for the fall.
"As a reminder, many individuals relied on older siblings and relatives for childcare this past year and the lack of clear direction is impacting not only the preparation for schools but also is contributing to the challenges for restoring day cares to full operation," the letter states. "As you know, once day care is stabilized more individuals can return to full-time work which is important for the families and our economy."