Local superintendents frustrated by new state guidelines on schools

Local superintendents frustrated by new state guidelines on schools Photo: News10NBC.

Updated: April 12, 2021 05:26 PM
Created: April 12, 2021 12:07 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Many superintendents across the Finger Lakes Region are frustrated at New York State's updated guidance for a bigger return to in-person learning.

The new guidelines came out on Friday night and largely follow the CDC guidance.

During a virtual media briefing Monday, President of the Monroe County Association of Superintendents Kathleen Graupman said by and large her biggest issue is with transmission rates dictating physical distancing rules.

In most cases, K-5 students will be able to return to full-time, in-school learning because they only need to be distanced at three feet when wearing masks.  But, the state still wants six feet between middle and high schoolers in counties with "high" transmission rates. 

See our compiled list of school reopening plans here.

"I guess when you look at the idea that we have thoughts around how to safely do this, we've proven we can do this and we've also got ideas," Graupman said. "I'd like the flexibility to be able to do that with some confidence because I think our communities want this."

Graupman also took issues with the guidelines being released late Friday afternoon, a move she called in part "insulting."

The New York State Department of Health also now says that enforcement of the new guidelines will fall to local counties.

Causing confusion are lines like this with the guidance that seem to indicate those local departments may have some flexibility, “ultimately, the school/district’s decision to move to shorter physical distances will come down to a local community’s risk tolerance based on its unique circumstances.”

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza was not available for an interview on Monday but News10NBC Investigative Reporter was able to catch up with Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

Jennifer Lewke – The state guidelines are out, they now throw the ball back to you guys at the county level for enforcement and approval, have you had conversations with Dr. Mendoza yet about how this is going to look?  

Adam Bello – Well, it doesn't throw it back in terms of creating the guidelines for which the re-opening guidelines are set by the state.  We just received the same guidelines Friday night as everybody else did so we meet regularly with the school superintendents and Dr. Mendoza, I know meets with them weekly and we’ll continue those meetings to figure out exactly how we can work with them to meet the guidelines.

Jennifer Lewke – You and Dr. Mendoza have said for months now that our schools are doing better than our community is [when it comes to transmission] but now the school children seem to be the ones sort of being penalized by a high community transmission rate

Adam Bello – Yeah, and we don't set those rules so we look at what can we control… I can't control what the states going to lay out or what the CDC is going to lay out but I want our kids back in school and so, what can we do and what can we control to get our kids back in school… it's our community transmission rate.

Jennifer Lewke – There are other counties who told me today that they're planning to move forward at 3 feet with barrier still or perhaps look at testing options. Are you willing to go beyond what's in those state guidelines?

Adam Bello – We're going to work with, we have to follow the state guidelines just like every district. There's not different rules for every county across New York State. Every county follows the same set of rules from New York State, every school district does too so we will work with the school districts, with what their needs are and get them open to the fullest extent that they can.

You can watch the briefing in full in the player below, or click here if you're on a mobile device.

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