WNY schools reviewing new guidance before reopening

Classroom Progress Report

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — New state guidelines have changed social distancing rules inside classrooms, but some superintendents say they’re still not ready to reopen. Even so, they’re looking forward to seeing students fully return to in-person learning.

Students are coming off of spring break this week. Superintendents who spoke with NEWS10’s sister station in Buffalo on Sunday said while the new guidance is a step in the right direction, kids won’t be in school for in-person learning for at least a couple of weeks.

The state has reduced the school distancing guidelines from six feet to three feet, this decision follows the new CDC recommendations for school distancing.

But, there’s a catch. It all depends on the COVID-19 community transmission rates in a county. The state says that three feet distancing is allowed for all grade levels in counties with low to moderate transmission rates. For counties with high COVID-19 transmission rates, the elementary schools can continue three feet distancing. However, the middle schoolers and high schoolers can only keep three feet if they’re using cohorts.

If the school is not using cohorts, then middle schoolers and high schoolers are back to six feet distancing.

Superintendent of the Niagara City Schools District Mark Laurrie said, “Right now, it seems as if the plan really affects and impacts elementary school. If you look at the infection rate, as it stands today, it’s still high according to the guidelines for grades 7 to 12. So this is just an opening for elementary schools as we read it, and we’ll move forward with those schools and we’ll start planning for more in the future.”

Other changes include the state no longer recommending physical barriers, like plexiglass, when physical distancing can not be maintained. Instead, districts should enhance their air systems and ventilation.

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