Bello, Dr. Mendoza, local leaders form school reopening task force

Back to School: Facts First

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local leaders announced a new regional task force designed to support the reopening process of area schools in 13 counties.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello was joined by Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, Common Ground Health CEO Wade Norwood, Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small, Jo Anne Antonacci, District Superintendent of Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, Vickie Swinehart, Seneca County Public Health Director, and Maria Cruz, a parent leader on the task force and a family peer advocate for the announcement.

“I’m delighted to join with my colleagues here in announcing this regional task force that is helping the entire 13 county region navigate the exceedingly complex task of reopening schools,” Norwood said. “It’s an assignment that requires us to bring together health and education.

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“This task force will provide an ongoing forum to solve issues and answer questions as we collectively navigate this new reality,” Bello said. on Thursday. “What we want is a sense of normalcy. But if we are going to do that even on a hybrid basis, it is critical and necessary that we are smart about it.”

A press release about the task force reads:

“The cross-sector planning group will provide a forum for candid discussion among stakeholder groups and ensure that local decisions are guided by the latest scientific findings about COVID-19. Although details of reopening plans will remain the responsibility of individual school districts and will vary depending on local conditions, the task force will identify common challenges and share best practices among its members.”

Mendoza said the list of questions about what and how to navigate the new normal will continue to grow as the area moves forward. “Closing our schools was relatively easy. reopening will be difficult and the greatest challenge is yet to come,” Mendoza said.

“The task force will serve as a space for ongoing dialogue about what is working, what is not working and what needs to be readjusted.”

Members of the task force said collaborate is needed, because the data won’t mean the same thing for all of the schools in the area. “There’s no single way to interpret some of these data,” Dr. Mendoza said.

“Different communities have different perspectives and different needs and different tolerance for risks.. And so we have to look at communities in different ways.”

If a student of teacher tests positive, Mendoza said the first step is for the local health department to get involved, and then an investigation will take place and contact tracing will begin.

Watch the full press conference here:

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All New York State school have until Friday to submit their specific reopening plans to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor’s office will make a decision in the first week of August on reopening.

“We are very concerned and we want to make sure that both plans when we submit them to the New York State Education Department, no later than tomorrow that we’ve made the best decision possible,” Superintendent Myers-Small, said. “So I stand before all of you grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with partners who have expertise that go beyond what I have.”

According to guidance released from the state, “New York is a large and diverse state – so there will be no ‘one size fits all’ model for reopening our schools.”

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