Where school districts stand on plans to bring kids back

Emily Putnam
Created: April 10, 2021 06:33 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester-area school districts are once again in planning mode as they prepare to bring students back for in-person instruction five days a week. 

New York State released new guidance for schools on Friday that aligns with CDC guidance saying three feet is enough for social distancing as long as the community transmission rate is low. 

On Saturday, the 7-day-average positivity rate in Monroe County was at 3.0%, which is still considered high by CDC metrics. School districts are now in a holding pattern, waiting to see if the transmission rate will drop in time to get kids back in the classroom before the end of the school year. 

Many districts have said that the goal was to have kids back in-person full time by the start of fourth quarter, which for most districts is April 19. 

Webster Central School District Superintendent Carmen Gumina announced on social media Saturday: "K-5 fully reopening on 4/22 five days per week ... gonna be tough to be full-time for 6-12 ... we need our infection rate to drop dramatically."

"Even as our numbers went up over the winter -- and our numbers among young people are going up again right now -- we're still not finding a lot of transmission in schools," said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. "Transmission is happening outside of schools."

Until the transmission rate drops, middle and high school students in Webster will remain hybrid for now. The same is true for Fairport students. The district says elementary school students will go back to in-person instruction five days per week on April 19, but older kids will stay hybrid for the time being. 

"Dr. Mendoza and I were advocates that the state mirror those [CDC] guidelines so that our young people can start to have more in-person instruction," said Bello. 

Saturday the New York State United Teachers union released a statement saying in part: "The guidelines are clear that community transmission -- with a majority of New York counties currently at high levels of transmission, per CDC metrics -- is a critical factor in how physical distancing changes are implemented."

At this point, most but not all districts have released an update to families about where they are in the planning process. A lot of districts are using this time to determine how many families are interested in sending kids back for the end of the school year and gauging how much space is available on buses, in classrooms, etc. 

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