Judge: NYS DOH should revisit school social distancing requirement

Erie County

ORCHARD PARK N.Y. (WIVB) — A judge is holding off on a ruling to have several school districts in Western New York fully reopen. A final decision is now expected Friday.

The lawsuit is over whether the Williamsville and Orchard Park School Districts should be forced to adopt the three-foot rule in classrooms for middle and high school students.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on Orchard Park. State Supreme Court Justice Emilio Colaiacovo called the guidelines arbitrary. He said during the hearing that the school district is using New York State Department of Health’s guidelines as a “shield to prevent students from going back” full-time.

District officials argued it’s not using the guidelines as an excuse, but until they’re changed it can’t successfully bring all students back five days a week. District officials did agree in the hearing that the majority of parents within the district do want their kids back in the classroom more often.

Among those parents is Jennifer Moore. “I think that’s the frustrating part. Is that, If covid can’t get you in 5th grade how is it going to get you in 7th? It really doesn’t make sense to me that one age group is being defined as riskier than another,” she said.

No decision was made Tuesday. Judge Colaiacovo directed the State DoH to reconsider the social distancing guidelines and expects a response by Friday.

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