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CDC & AAP Guidance on School Opening 2021-22

July 29, 2021

To: District Superintendents
Charter School Leaders
Non-Public School Leaders

From: Betty A. Rosa, Commissioner

Re: CDC & AAP Guidance on School Opening 2021-22

Date: July 29, 2021

Like all of you, the New York State Education Department (Department) is anxious to receive health and safety guidance from the Governor’s office and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) concerning schools for the 2021-2022 school year.

While the nature and extent of COVID-19 and its variants are still dynamic, it is essential that schools receive whatever guidance the Governor and the DOH intend to offer about the 2021-2022 school year as soon as possible to provide time for you to take necessary measures to safely welcome students in September. 

The Governor’s staff has informed the Department that guidance from DOH is in development and the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will serve as its basis. Therefore, the best the Department can offer to schools when it comes to health-related preparations for September is that CDC guidelines should be the basis of preparing for the 2021-2022 school year until further information is issued by the Governor or DOH. The Department’s Office of Student Support Services recommends that you use the CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools as resources.

Many questions persist, including the extent to which remote instruction may be used (this also depends upon DOH health and safety measures such as physical distancing requirements). The Department’s position on remote instruction is as follows: 

  • So long as allowed by public health officials, schools should be open for in-person teaching and learning, and students should be in school.
  • In case of school closures due to a declared public health emergency, schools must be prepared to provide remote instruction.
  • While the Department will not require schools that are open for full-time, in-person instruction to provide on-line or remote instruction, districts may work with students and families to offer remote options if it is deemed to be in the best educational interest of the student.
  • Districts should consider the value of on-line capacity developed in response to the pandemic to expand programmatic offerings and to offer remote learning opportunities that are responsive to student needs. This can be done directly, through cooperative agreements with other school districts, or through Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. This can help where documented medical conditions prohibit the safe return for students to in-person instruction and where students who have otherwise struggled have excelled with remote learning. 

The Department has worked with a diverse group of educational representatives to develop a series of issues and questions that have been submitted to the Governor’s office for consideration as part of health and safety guidance for the operation of schools in the coming school year.  

  • masking for all individuals, and for all indoor events in all schools, in lieu of screening and testing;
  • use of mass transit masking rules for school-supplied transportation, with no physical distancing;
  • physical distancing of 3 feet indoors, where possible with local discretion; and
  • better coordination by local health departments when school districts have facilities in more than one county.  

The urgency and frustration you are feeling as September approaches is palpable and is shared by the Department. The overall goal for the 2021-2022 school year is to maximize in-person teaching and learning, be responsive to student needs, and keep students and staff healthy and safe. Be assured the Department is engaged in continuing efforts to help develop and secure guidance to advance that goal.