Districts question inclusion on state list

Camden, Oriskany school officials say reopening plans submitted to state correctly and on time

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Four school districts in Oneida County are among 107 districts statewide that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said have not submitted plans for in-person learning and reopening from COVID-19 closures, but the issues may stem from procedural steps — or portions of plans that are deficient — rather than from no filings.

Some of the districts identified include Camden, Oriskany, Utica and Waterville. Among reactions, both the Camden and Oriskany districts questioned why they are on the list and said they already had met the filing requirements.

After Cuomo on Monday afternoon announced a Friday filing deadline for the 107 districts and said they could not reopen this year if they miss that date, Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi later issued a statement elaborating on the situation.

“The list of districts that didn’t file a plan with the state Department of Health is accurate. Despite clear guidance provided to these schools, which included a link to the DOH portal, some districts in follow-up calls said they filed with the state Education Department — which is not an executive agency — but didn’t file with DOH,” said Azzopardi’s statement. “Others filled out an affirmation certifying that they would be abiding by the state’s reopening guidance, but didn’t actually submit their plan, something many of these districts are now rectifying.”

However, Camden school district Superintendent Dr. Ravo Root said Monday “we sent our plans in on time and have a receipt. We have sent the plans again and are looking for clarification as to why they weren’t received the first time.”

The Camden district then issued a statement saying it “submitted the Reopening School Plans to both the NYS Department of Health and New York state Education Department on July 31, 2020, on the date they were due.” It added “we have receipts that the plans were submitted. We have resubmitted plans to the Department of Health, and are working with them to understand why they did not receive our plans the first time they were submitted.”

Oriskany Central School Superintendent Timothy J. Gaffney said the district did submit plans to the state on time on Friday, July 31 as requested and required, and that the plans received confirmation. But then the district received information Monday that it was not approved.

“Unbeknownst to us, when we received information that we were not approved, we reached out to the Department of Health that same day (Monday), spoke with Department of Health personnel, walking them through our submission process,” Gaffney said. “The response we received was that they were looking into this and that they would get back to us today.”  

The superintendent added, “We have resubmitted the plan again to the DOH walking them through our process via phone conversation. So currently, we are awaiting their response.”

An nbcnewyork.com report noted some school districts have pushed back on Cuomo’s announcement from Monday and that the districts said they had documentation showing they submitted both required reopening plans.

Cuomo’s announcement said school districts that do not meet the Friday deadline for filing in-person learning/reopening plans will not be able to provide in-person learning this year. Cuomo last week cleared schools in New York overall to reopen this fall, but noted then that there were some issues with the filings of reopening plans.

“....For those 107 school districts, how they didn’t submit a plan is beyond me. If they don’t submit a plan by this Friday, they can’t open,” Cuomo said Monday.

Districts that are found to be out of compliance were getting a letter from the state Department of Health on Monday and a follow-up call naming the sections of their plans that are deficient, in which case they will have until Friday to amend their plan, Cuomo’s announcement said.

Among other school districts in the region on the list included: Central Valley Academy in Ilion-Mohawk; Owen D. Young in Van Hornsville; Carthage; Cooperstown; Richfield Springs; Cortland; Altmar-Parish-Williamstown; Oswego; and Fayetteville-Manlius, according to the release from the governor’s press office.

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