HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM)- Regional educators and legislators are calling for Governor Cuomo to give them the ability to control local school reopenings.

Superintendents from approximately 20 schools joined Congressman Tom Reed and state legislators on Wednesday morning at GST BOCES in Horseheads to make their case.

Governor Cuomo announced shortly after the press conference in Horseheads that more information on schools will be announced on Monday, July 13 and that schools must submit their reopening plans by July 31.

A final decision on schools isn’t expected until early August, according to the Governor.

Congressman Reed said in his opening remarks in Horseheads that he’s been in contact with regional representatives and school superintendents, and said that “we need to get our children back in schools.”

State Rep. Tom O’Mara says that a majority of states have outlined plans for schools, but New York has not. O’Mara added that New York can not implement a “one size fits all” plan for schools that would treat schools in New York City the same as schools in the Southern Tier.

Multiple officials also highlighted the lack of internet connectivity and availability of technology in some areas of the Southern Tier and Western New York.

In a joint statement, Reed, O’Mara, Palmesano, Friend, Byrnes and Giglio said the following:

“Our local county leaders, health professionals, educators, teachers and communities have demonstrated enormous dedication, discipline and responsibility throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our communities’ leaders have demonstrated they can be trusted with a careful and thorough reopening of schools that is focused on safety, first and foremost.  No one cares more about the health and well-being of our students, families and school communities.  What has been accomplished by administrators, teachers and parents to help students throughout this public health crisis has been remarkable.  These efforts must continue to supplement ongoing instruction because in-person schooling is fundamentally important to the long-term health and well-being of our young people and their families.  Nothing can replace our children being in school.  It’s central to quality education, our ongoing economic recovery and the strength of our social fabric.  Governor Cuomo needs to release the guidelines so that school administrators can get to work implementing a safe reopening for September.  The governor can’t leave school districts, students, teachers and parents waiting until the final minute for guidance.” 

The group highlighted the success of the regional COVID-19 response, praising the work of local officials and the ongoing cooperation of local citizens and communities to follow the safety guidelines recommended to stop the spread of the coronavirus and demonstrate the feasibility of safe reopening.  The group also noted that the knowledge and experience gained over the past several months leaves them confident about developing and implementing safe school reopening plans for September – if, they stressed, the state releases the necessary protocols and gives school districts ample time to thoroughly prepare their facilities and staff.

The press conference can be watched in its entirety below.