New York schools are reopening for in-classroom instruction after more than a year of pandemic-related uncertainty.
There will be rules of the road put in place by the state: Universal masking requirements while indoors, regardless of vaccination status and unvaccinated adult school personnel will be tested weekly for COVID-19.
The guidance, very broadly, is aimed at keeping schools open and guarding against a return to remote learning for students, many of whom faced setbacks as a result. But uncertainty remains for schools amid the spread of the delta variant, which led to a spike in cases this summer.
Schools have funding in place to make frequent testing a reality, and many have already done so. But some schools will need support to make the testing rule for unvaccinated school personnel, as well as those who were exposed to a COVID-19 positive person a reality.
"School districts will need that support to get this done and I think the intention is well," said Kyle Belokopitsky, the executive of the New York State PTA. "It's to protect children who cannot be vaccinated. But we're going to have to do everything we can to help school districts."
Some districts will need help, however, to ensure that volume of COVID-19 testing can be done.
"This is going to be a logistics issue," she said. "Now we're trying to figure out logistically how we can get this work done."
Last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced universal masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status, will be in place — her first effort since being elevated to the office to manage an unpredictable public health crisis.
"Our students stepped up, they wore universal masks last year for the entire school year," Belokopitsky said. "They are rock stars."
The mask rule is backed by the labor group New York State United Teachers, and President Andy Pallotta backs a range of efforts to curtail the spread of the virus.
"We want to see all the mitigation strategies in place. Ventilation, masking, the cleaning that has to take place," he said. "We want to see all that going on on a constant basis."
Hochul moved to create a statewide guidance for New York schools rather than allow local districts to set a patchwork of policies — a move embraced by the teachers' group.
"That's exactly what we needed rather than just have CDC general guidance," Pallotta said. "There are definite things in place."