October 22, 2021

2 school districts object to state citations

Metro Creative Graphics

Two greater Cortland area school districts said Tuesday they have been improperly cited for not submitting reopening plans to the state following an announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

Superintendents from the Cortland Enlarged City School District and the George Junior Republic Union Free School District in Freeville say they submitted plans for their districts’ reopening by the July 31 deadline, though they were named among 107 school districts that had not submitted plans. The release called for a new Friday deadline for all districts to have their plans submitted.

Districts that fail to meet the new deadline will be unable to provide in-person teaching, Cuomo said.

“It’s unfortunate there wasn’t a check-in with districts prior to that release,” said Sonia Apker, the superintendent of the George Junior Republic Union Free School District.

Apker said she received confirmation emails from both the state’s Department of Health and Education Department saying the district’s plans were received July 31.

However, on Monday, she received an email from the Department of Health saying that it did not receive the plans.

“We immediately began calling NYSDOH to sort through the error, but have only been able to leave messages,” Apker said in a statement. “In the meantime, we have elected to submit our plan for a second time. It is unfortunate that a press release identifying districts that had failed to submit plans contained errors in naming those districts.”

Apker, though, did understand the stressful situation the COVID-19 pandemic has created on all aspects of education from different sectors and understands the strain Department of Health workers may be under right now, potentially leading to the error.

Cortland was under a similar situation, said Superintendent of Schools Robert Edwards.

The district submitted its plans July 31, also receiving confirmation it had been received from the Education Department, but not from the Department of Health.

“We had no indicators until yesterday,” Edwards said in an email. “There has been an error at the Department of Health, which caused the mistaken reporting by the governor’s office.”

Edwards said that the Department of Health did not send out an automatic confirmation email, unlike the Education Department, when the plans were submitted. He has since spoken with a representative from the Department of Health, taken a picture of the submission screen and sent it out.

Of the roughly 700 school districts in the state, 86, requested a one-week extension on Friday to submit plans.

They must post their plans for their remote learning, testing and tracing on their websites and have at least three public sessions with parents and teachers by Aug. 21 to discuss reopening needs, according to the release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.