New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at a daily briefing during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the State Capitol in Albany, New York, April 29, 2020.

Mike Segar | Reuters

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that the state’s schools and colleges will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year and will continue distance learning to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Cuomo said state officials don’t believe schools could develop a plan to reopen that would keep students and educators safe in time. He said any plan to reopen schools would have to follow social distancing protocols where people wear masks and no gatherings are held, and the transportation system would require fewer students. 

He said a decision on summer school will be announced at the end of May. 

In the meantime, he said he’s asked the state’s school districts to develop a reopening plan. 

“We want schools now to start developing a plan to reopen,” Cuomo said. “The plan has to have protocols in place that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we learned.”

Any plans that reimagine how the state’s schools operate moving forward must consider how and when extracurricular activities could reopen, housing and meals would work on college campuses and what steps would be taken to ensure students’ mental health, among other considerations, he said. 

He said the there are currently no plans to close schools this fall because it’s a long time away. In order for summer school to occur, Cuomo said there would need to be  “a drop or stabilization of the infection rate for a period of time.”

Colleges and universities moved to remote learning starting March 19 and campuses were closed except for those in need of housing, Cuomo said.

New York state has 700 public school districts with 4,8000 schools and 2.59 million students. There are also 1,800 private schools and over 100 private colleges that have thousands of students. 

Cuomo said by definition, these schools have high density and transportation issues and there’s a greater risk of spread unless protective measures are fully in place. 

“The decisions on the education system are obviously critically important. We must protect our children, every parent, every citizen feels that, we must protect our students, we must protect our educators,” Cuomo said.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates. 

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