Schools frustrated with lack of re-opening guidance from NYS

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: March 29, 2021 11:18 PM
Created: March 29, 2021 09:49 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Frustration is growing among students, parents and school superintendents. It’s been 10 days since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its updated guidance for returning to in-person learning but New York State has yet to sign off on the guidelines, leaving districts in a lurch.

Superintendents across Monroe County and the Finger Lakes are moving forward with their school re-opening plans but it’s fair to say, they’re annoyed.

“The first time this came up actually was March 8. The health commissioner, Dr. Zucker made comments to the State Senate at his budget testimony about 'any day now coming out with new guidance' he claimed that at the time it was a high priority,” Brighton Superintendent Dr. Kevin McGowan said.

But there still has been no update.

Most districts are hoping to bring students back for in-person learning during the week of April 19, but that is dependent on the New York State Department of Health and Dr. McGowan says parents are losing patience.

“It doesn't matter to people that it is somebody else having to give us the green light," McGowan said. "The reality is I don't blame them for being frustrated, they don't want to parse out which governmental layer is responsible for what, they just want their kids back in school.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza have written to the NYSDOH and now almost all of the superintendents in Monroe County have too, asking for the state to either adopt the CDC guidelines or update its own.

While the current state guidelines do allow districts to bring kids back with 3-feet of social distancing, plastic barriers must be used.

“That is astoundingly wasteful relative to the purchase of that much plastic, and if ultimately, at some point in the future, that is the only way to reopen schools, as much as that would be a waste of the public's money and not scientifically valid, I guess we'd have to review that but again the CDC is saying don't do that doesn't make sense, it’s not proven to reduce the risk of the virus,” McGowan said.

It is possible NYS will require increased testing of students and staff if it’s going to allow broader re-opening.

“We can make that happen tomorrow," McGowan said. "Our understanding is the test supplies are available, we have a system in place and according to the CDC guidance if we did adopt that, you're talking about 10% per week even if our state had a higher threshold we can make that happen and again if that is a pathway to having kids back in school to doing it safely to keeping our community safe bring it on let's get that done.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the NYSOH told News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke the same thing she’s been saying for the past week, “We are still conducting a detailed and comprehensive review of the new CDC guidance.”


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