SAANYS would like to thank Deputy Secretary of Education Dan Fuller for meeting with us today to discuss the reopening of schools in the fall from the perspective of building administrators and program directors. We appreciate that the deputy secretary reached out for our input and the time he took out of his schedule to hear our concerns. The points raised by SAANYS at the meeting included issues regarding the release of guidance, social distancing, mask wearing, and testing. More specifically, the points discussed included:
- Clear and consistent guidance is needed now. NYSED and NYSDOH must collaborate prior to release of the guidance, as regional variation has been inconsistent and confusing.
- Reopening means having all students return to school in the fall.
- Any reopening plan should be clear. If a hybrid option is needed, then criteria for providing it and under which circumstances must be developed and implemented consistently. Documentation that students need remote instruction must be required. Attendance mandates are necessary.
- Should schools reopen at 100% capacity, the need for social distancing at six or three feet needs rethinking. Arranging for school lunches, transportation, and classrooms is very difficult with even three feet distancing. This will impact staffing and space.
- Masking guidance should be developed as recommendations, not a mandate. Decisions on masking should be made locally and based on vaccination and infection rates.
- Guidance on testing should be specific as to the testing and percentages of persons required to be tested. Random testing of asymptomatic persons or pooling strategies are incredibly challenging. It is difficult to get consent to be tested from staff and students. It would help if the testing was made a requirement.
During this discussion, Mr. Fuller indicated that the governor’s office would like to see an emphasis on vaccination centers in schools as we move into the next school year. These centers would allow students to obtain a wide variety of vaccinations required for school attendance and COVID-19 vaccines for eligible students.