Cuomo unsure whether NY schools will reopen in September

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addresses questions from reporters during a news briefing in Watertown, N.Y. on May 13, 2020. (WHAM photo)

(WHAM) - During a news briefing Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed uncertainty about a timeframe for schools to resume in New York.

When a reporter asked the governor about the decision made by California to shift all state college classes to online learning for the fall semester, Cuomo said he understood the decision but acknowledged that the situation is changing quickly as scientists learn more about the novel coronavirus and inform public health experts about their decision making.

"Where are we going to be in September? I don't know," Cuomo said when asked on whether New York would follow suit with schools. "I don't know where we're going to be in August. You know, I'm trying to figure out June. I understand schools need a leave time and to plan."

Planning for the 'new normal', as Cuomo referred to it, is something that will take extensive work. Social distancing measures need to be taken into account for classrooms at K-12 schools and lecture halls at colleges, as well as cafeterias, gymnasiums, and buses, to name a few of the processes that would need to be planned out.

"I'm respectful of the time the schools need to actually plan, but I'm not ready to say what we should be doing in September on schools," Cuomo said.

The uncertainty posed by the governor during the Wednesday briefing further clouds the future of the state's education system as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to ripple outward.

Last week, Cuomo announced that the state would partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to "reimagine education" in a way that would explore how technology is currently used and could be used in the future for students.

"One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal," Cuomo said during the announce about the Gates Foundation.

Many teachers, parents, and education leaders in the state bristled at the governor's comments, saying in-person teaching is vital to children learning new concepts and creating a personal relationship with their teachers and aides.

“Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom and is a critical part of the teaching and learning process — which is why we’ve seen educators work so hard during this pandemic to maintain those connections through video chats, phone calls and socially distant in-person meetings,"said Andy Pallotta, president of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers union.

Ultimately, Cuomo said, the decision will require the state and school administrators to get some more data and more information.

"We told them to plan for a new normal, but I want to see what happens between now and then," Cuomo said.