School districts: ‘We’re walking a razor-thin (staffing) line right now’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — It’s a day-by-day decision in many school districts right now as to whether they can remain open for in-person learning. It’s not about the safety of students, it’s about the staffing.

Most districts are desperately trying to shuffle people and resources around to cover for staff members who are either in isolation or quarantine due to COVID19.

“Our ability to get students back-and-forth to school, our ability to serve students meals and our ability to have teachers in classrooms has been significantly diminished,” said President of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents and the current superintendent of Rush-Henrietta Schools Bo Wright.

Louanne Montrois knows that all too well, she got a call at 6:30 a.m. this week.

“We’re sorry, there’s no school bus drivers so your child may not be picked up for an hour or two…his bus stop is four blocks from our house so now it’s like okay, now I have to bring my child to school and if I’m working, now I have to tell my job I’m sorry I have to bring my child to school,” she told News10NBC.

Montrois’s son, Zachary, is a student at Greece Odyssey. Between these kinds of issues and a number of possible exposures, it’s been hard for him to keep up during quarantines.

“It was very hard to teach him at home last year but he did better last year than he is doing this year, going back to school,” she said, “they will give you like the homework but there’s no curriculum so, they don’t have the lesson anymore…there’s no lesson.”

Wright admits the staffing situation across most districts right now is not ideal and most are just trying to cover gaps and keep their heads above water in an effort to not have to go fully remote.

“You’ll see school districts hang on as long as we possibly can because it’s going to be a storm for the next few weeks we know that, “ he told News10NBC.

Montrois thinks in-person learning is best but not necessarily if the librarian is covering for the physics teacher or the principal is covering for the art teacher.

“There’s no option for our children to learn from home anymore, I think we need to get back to parents’ choice,” she said.

At this point, it looks like it’s all or nothing, “I don’t think that you’re going to see any school districts revert back to a hybrid model what you may see, is a situation where… I know if I had to take a first step here in Rush-Henrietta and wade back into the waters of remote learning, I would look to do it at the secondary level first,” Wright said.

Something that might help? Monroe County has adopted new isolation and quarantine rules:

  • Whether a person is fully vaccinated or not, he/she must isolate for 5 days if positive for COVID19; after that, if asymptomatic, he/she may leave isolation so long as he/she wears a mask for the remaining 5 days.
  • An unvaccinated person must quarantine for 5 days if exposed to a person with a confirmed case of COVID19; after that he/she may leave quarantine if asymptomatic so long as he/she wears a mask for the remaining 5 days.

These guidelines apply to adults and children. If they are exposed to COVID-19 and either not fully vaccinated OR fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster but not yet boosted – they need to quarantine for five days and meet all of the other criteria for return-to-school (no symptoms).