School districts waiting for updated re-opening guidance from NYS

[anvplayer video=”5043128″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cleared the way for a full return to in-person learning in the fall but local school districts say they’re still waiting for clear guidance from New York State before they can commit.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) tells News10NBC it is still “reviewing the new CDC guidance” and has not given a timetable for when it will determine whether to allow schools to follow it or update its own guidance.

Bo Wright is the current superintendent in Rush-Henrietta and serves as the President of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents.

“I can tell you… superintendents, principals, teachers we want to re-open schools fully and I know that parents want that as well, we think we have a moral obligation to do that,” Wright said.

Under the new CDC guidance, that should be possible.

“As much as I was encouraged by what I saw in the CDC guidance — it’s not regulatory, we need that state guidance because that ultimately is going to dictate what we can and can’t do,” Wright added.

The new CDC guidance allows vaccinated students and teachers to go maskless.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC) – The question for parents is going to be… Is it going to be an honor system and how will they feel comfortable knowing one way or the other?

Bo Wright – Well again, I think it comes back to what the guidance looks like.

Jennifer Lewke – If the state were to give more flexibility to localities this time around, will you rely on Dr. Mendoza’s (Monroe County Health Commissioner) office or do you expect that districts may choose different approaches?

Bo Wright – I think that there is always a concerted effort to try and be consistent across the county where we can be but again there are different viewpoints, different wants, different needs within different school districts.

Jennifer Lewke – Are you planning for at-home learning options for students next year too or no?

Bo Wright – So, that’s an interesting conversation… again we haven’t heard what the requirements are going to be, we’re not even sure what we’re authorized to do if we are going to offer remote learning as an option. I think it will different districts may do different things depending on their size and what the state allows.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Rochester on Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting at a local manufacturing company. News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke was able to catch up with her to see if she had any idea how long it’ll take the state to update its back-to-school guidance.

Lt. Gov. Hochul – What happens in the fall will be determined as we continue to follow the science and the data. It’s only July so we need to see where we are right before school starts.

Jennifer Lewke – It is only July but a lot of the superintendents say they need to plan, a lot of the districts — the bigger districts are worried about spacing, what might be a requirement and what might not be… do you have any idea when the state may have that guidance?

Lt. Gov. Hochul – No, that’s being developed as we speak we’re working with the CDC to see what recommendations they have for schools as well as our local health officials. So, I know everyone’s anxious, we went through this last year with every phase. When all the restrictions would be imposed or lifted so this is not new to us… it was not knee-jerk (then) just because there’s pressure to give an answer we waited until we had the right answer.

The Monroe County Council of School Superintendents plans to send the Department of Health a letter this week urging it to update the guidance as soon as possible.