Schools still waiting on guidance from New York State for reopening

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — With each week that ticks by and ever-changing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on fighting COVID-19, area school districts are anxiously awaiting direction from the state on the start of schools.

Monroe County schools are using what they learned last year, with the priority being a safe return of in-person learning.

Rush-Henrietta Superintendent Bo Wright said all districts are keeping busy and are focused on the fall semester, he said whatever guidance they get from the state and whenever that may be they are ready to open up school five days a week.

“We have a moral obligation to do that, and I know I speak for every superintendent in the county when I say that all of us are committed to, whatever the circumstances are, that kids have the opportunity to come back to school for 5 days a week in-person instruction,” Wright said. “Do I think there may be some challenges to that? Yeah, I do.”

It’s crunch time when it comes to what schools will be doing this fall regarding COVID requirements.

Wright said they are following CDC guidance for now and are encouraged with what they are seeing when it comes to masks.

“I think it’s safe to say that there will be some sort of masking requirement of some sort giving what’s happening with the variant and what we’re seeing be recommended from the CDC,” Wright said.

Wright said the ideal situation is to receive guidance soon, but without it, he said you may see local districts adopt their own masking policies, but said changes to social distancing would be their biggest hurdle especially when it comes to large gatherings, bus rides or lunch.

“If I had to identify one challenge that has the potential to be a real barrier it’s distancing,” Wright said.

As for requiring vaccines for staff and students, Wright said that would also come from a state level and not schools. However, he said the current teacher vaccination rates are on the higher end.

“In school districts across Monroe County in most cases you have teacher vaccination rates at 80-90% or better which I think is going to help us when it comes to reopening in September,” Wright said.

When News10NBC spoke to health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, he also said they are waiting to hear from the state to see if at a county level what they can do when it comes to masking requirements.

For parents who may still be uncomfortable sending their child to school, Wright said he thinks most districts will offer some type of remote-learning option.

A spokesperson from the New York State Department of Health released the following statement Tuesday:

"We must get a handle on the Delta variant so kids can get back to school in the most normal way possible. This latest announcement from the CDC reinforces the fact that public health metrics are constantly changing, and it is difficult to predict what will be most effective for schools this far in advance. New York State continues to review the new CDC guidance and daily data outcomes, communicate with health and education stakeholders across the State and will ultimately make our recommendations for the fall based on what is in the best interest of public health."