Letter From Interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe

Letter From Interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe: March 13, 2020
Posted on 03/16/2020
Dear Parents,
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) recognizes the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting schools and communities across the state. NYSED today issued updated guidance to school officials regarding the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) to provide as much flexibility as possible to districts affected by closure related to COVID-19 in many areas, including accountability and test administration.

Earlier this week, NYSED and the State Department of Health also issued guidance to school and community health officials regarding school closures related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which includes the requirement for schools to close for 24 hours if a student or staff member attended school prior to being confirmed as a positive COVID-19 patient. When a student or staff member attended school prior to being confirmed as a COVID-19 case, New York State Department of Health requires an initial 24-hour closure, in order to begin an investigation to determine the contacts that the individual may have had within the school environment. That investigation will inform the plan determined by the local department of health as to any further required closure, or other necessary precautions to take for specific classrooms, or for specific individuals.

The guidance for P-12 schools provides an update on measures needed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak as well as recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions and community containment measures that may be useful to reduce disease transmission in schools including a checklist for schools to assist in planning. The measures outlined in the guidance reflect best practices for reducing exposure and transmission of infectious diseases in community settings, such as schools. NYSED also provided updated guidance to colleges and universities in New York State.

All resources for schools related to COVID-19 can be found on NYSED's dedicated coronavirus web page. We will remain in close contact with the Health Department and will update and disseminate additional guidance as necessary.

As I mentioned in previous updates, the Board of Regents and NYSED have been holding regional information meetings across the state as part of our review of New York State graduation measures. If you have already attended one of the Regional Meetings to provide your input, we sincerely appreciate your contribution to this important effort.

Out of an abundance of caution, all future Graduation Measures Regional Meetings have been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The remaining meetings will be rescheduled in the future. In the meantime, if you would like to provide feedback, the online survey of our five guiding questions remains available on our Graduation Measures website.

Last week, the Board of Regents held its monthly meeting in Albany. At the meeting, the Board acted to amend regulations to improve the special education due process system in New York State, including measures designed to increase the number of special education impartial hearing officers (IHO) for due process complaints in New York City. The proposed regulatory changes will help address the backlog of cases in New York City and provide some flexibility to allow videoconferencing to alleviate some pressure on the due process system. These changes will help ensure students with disabilities and their families get access to the services and supports they need and are entitled to in a timely manner.

Also last week, NYSED awarded $15.62 million in new grants to six recipients for Cohort V of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School Program (P-TECH). The program prepares thousands of New York students for high-skills jobs of the future in technology, manufacturing, and finance. The model incorporates an integrated six-year program that combines high school, college, and career training targeted toward academically and economically at-risk students. Recipients will receive funding over seven years contingent upon the State Comptroller's office approval of the grants.

Finally, it's Women's History Month, and the New York State Museum has opened a special exhibition that highlights significant achievements for women's rights. The Museum will exhibit three special installations in honor of Women's History Month and the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which ended the exclusion of voters on the basis of sex. Open March 10 through April 26, the Museum will exhibit the 2020 Quilt Project, the Central Park Women's Monument maquette, and a 1913 suffrage wagon. Learn more about the three special installations on the New York State Museum's website.

I appreciate your continued support as we work together through this challenging time to ensure the health and safety of students, educators, and community members.


Shannon Tahoe
Interim Commissioner
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