BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Andrew Cuomo says parents "have to be included" in school districts' discussions to reopen schools.
"Parents have to be included and the parents have to believe the plan makes sense," said Cuomo in a news teleconference Thursday.
Cuomo reiterated that his ultimate decision on whether school districts can reopen this fall will be based on the viral transmission spread, on a region by region basis.
"We are not going to open any school unless the viral transmission rate says we have the rate under control," said Cuomo.
Cuomo had previously announced that schools will be allowed to reopen if they are in a region with a 14-day average daily infection rate of five percent or lower. Last week, school districts had to submit reopening health and safety plans to the State Health Department, which outline their protocols to prevent and stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
"Because if the teachers say, 'I’m not coming back,' or the parents say, 'I'm not sending my child,' then whatever the school district says is irrelevant," said Cuomo.
However, he says the decision about whether a student will be going into the classroom is ultimately up to the parents and guardians, which is why on Thursday he spoke at length about how parents need to be included in the practical decision making by school districts.
"Please be consulting and communicating with parents and teachers because they are the vital stakeholders," Cuomo publicly pleaded on the teleconference.
Recently, some school superintendents have been critical of Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker for a new requirement that school districts must have a plan in place to test students.
"It came as a curve ball. It came as a surprise. And it came as a real difficult challenge to navigate," said Superintendent Mark Laurrie from Niagara Falls City Schools.
Buffalo Public Schools has submitted questions to the Health Commissioner about the testing protocols and what the State's expectations are.