New York state schools and colleges will be closed for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday.
He said that the goal is to keep the state's students and teachers safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo said that the K-12 schools and colleges will continue to do remote, socially-distanced learning.
Summer school announcements will be made at the end of May and that schools should plan for what they will need to possibly reopen in the fall, cites NBC News. In order for summer school to happen, there would have to be "a drop or stabilization of the infection rate for a period of time."
He said that there are no plans to keep schools closed in the fall, because it is too far in the future to predict what the state of coronavirus will be by then. If any school were to reopen in the future, social distancing protocol and wearing masks would be required where gatherings are held. The transportation system would also require fewer students.
In the meantime, the governor asked schools to make plans for reopening, reports CNBC.
"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."
Plans to reopen schools must consider how to handle extracurricular activities, meals, and how to help student's mental health.
On the topic of emotional wellness, Cuomo also discussed how COVID-19 has caused a "mental health crisis." In response, New York launched free mental health services where anyone can call a hotline and set up a therapist session "totally free." This is the first move by the state government to address the anxiety and depression caused by coronavirus, according to Time Magazine.
"They're nervous, they're anxious, they're isolated. It can bring all sorts of emotions and feelings to the surface. When you're isolated you don't have people to talk to," Cuomo said.
New York state has 2.59 million students with over 4,800 schools. The governor said that these schools have high density and transportation issues, and therefore a greater risk of spreading the disease, unless extreme protective measures are taken.
"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.