ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — President of the Monroe County Superintendent’s Council Kathy Graupman shared frustrations after new guidance on reopening schools was released from New York State.
“Our hope was that the intent of the new guidance was to help us open more fully. When reading through the guidance, don’t believe that it’s a document that will help us open more fully in fact the way I’m reading it and understanding it, is it really feels more restrictive than really the initial Department of Health guidance,” Graupman said.
The new guidance recommends physical distancing requirements dependent on grade level, with a minimum of 3 feet for elementary school students. Middle and high schools may shift from the 6-foot requirement to the new 3-foot requirement, depending on cohort sizes in the schools and rates of infection on the county level.
Masks are still required.
A 6-foot distance will always be required between adults, between a student and an adult, during meal times, and in common areas outside the classroom.
“I’m frustrated by the timing. I’m frustrated that we have reached out to the state over and over again through this entire year. That initial guidance was designed and given to us in August of 2020 and as the science changed this more as we learned more as we proved more in terms of the success we were having with kids in school and knowing how important getting them back in school, nothing changed,” Graupman said.
“And then to drop this Friday at 5 p.m. is just insulting and really, really frustrating to us because it’s not looser in any way there isn’t any flexibility.”
The new guidance says the state will not be involved in approving plans and the Monroe County Department of Public Health is in charge of enforcing the new guidance.
“Very clearly, the New York State Department of Health shifted responsibility, so they were very clear that they are not responsible. They will not be approving, nor will they be responding to us — which they haven’t once this year — and that the Monroe County Department of Health would be responsible for enforcement of our plans and that’s not super clear in terms of what that means.”
Graupman said she and the other superintendents in the region met over the weekend to discuss what this meant and came up with a list of questions for the county’s Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza.
“We generated a list of questions we had and had shared that with him so I know he said he would be working on that and getting back to us shortly.”
The rate of infection for Monroe County as of Sunday evening is 3.1% — higher than where health officials would like. Because of the higher infection rate, all students cannot be in-person, according to the new guidance.
“We haven’t linked opening to transmission rates in the past.”
“We’ve proven that we can be open and do this well so our schools have done an incredible job of opening our schools have done an incredible job of staying open this year — even when our rates when up in the community. We’ve proved through testing that our positivity rate within schools is low and our transmission rate within schools is almost non-existent. So it really doesn’t make sense to me that were now attaching out ability to do this to transmission rate because we haven’t done this in the past.”
Like others, West Irondequoit school officials have said the most likely scenario is middle and high schoolers will remain in hybrid learning model for now, and elementary students go for five days a week in-person learning, as the desistance requirement is based on grade level.
West Irondequoit Central School District is one of many schools in the area who sent a letter out to parents over the weekend.
As a result districts like West Irondequoit, Brighton and Hilton have been leaning towards keeping those middle and high schoolers hybrid, with elementary schools going for a full days.
Hilton Central School District officials originally planned to open for in-person instruction for all students for five days per week. However, the district updated the guidance over the weekend to keep students in grades 7th through 12th hybrid.
Fairport school officials plan to hold a school board meeting on Tuesday to discuss the return to school plans.
The Webster Superintendent said on Twitter over the weekend middle and high schoolers will be sticking to hybrid for now as well — and more info should be coming on Monday for that district.
Full press conference with President of the Monroe County Superintendent’s Council Kathy Graupman:
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.