Officials expect COVID-19 guidelines from local schools to vary district to district

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — After not receiving formal reopening guidance from the state, local school districts are working around the clock to figure out plans for the upcoming school year. 

With about a month to go until students are back in the classroom, many questions remain. Will students have to wear masks or social distance?

One local superintendent says expect guidelines to vary from district to district. 

“I can guarantee you that we’re working towards consistency, but we’re not going to have consistency across the board and district. Each district is going to have peculiarities based on their size based on the size of classrooms based on the population,” said Dr. Shawn Van Scoy, the Superintendent of the Gananda Central School District. 

Van Scoy said they are currently working with the Wayne County Health Department to figure out their plans for the upcoming year. 

“Is the county gonna mandate mass or are they going to mandate under what conditions the mask will be required? And then if they’re not going to mandate, at what point we is a local entity determine that we’re going to require mass for our students?.” He said. 

“For example, there’s currently not a mass mandate in Wayne County. We had three positive cases at our summer school program last week. Wayne County Department of Health recommended that we have everybody in the program mask… students and staff. So they were not in a position to mandate that, but they recommended that, and so we followed through on that recommendation.”

While some parents welcome masking with the Delta variant spreading and cases rising among children, others aren’t in favor. Audrey Brentson was one of many parents who protested masking and vaccine requirements Monday outside of Strong Memorial Hospital.  

“I think the schools need to let parents decide what’s best for their children,” Brentson said. “It’s a distraction to have something over your face. It’s hot, adults struggle with wearing them. It’s uncomfortable and they’re not getting the full experience of having facial expressions. It’s going to affect our kids long-term.” 

Van Scoy says from what he’s seen, most students do okay with wearing masks. 

“The vast majority of our students are able to wear masks wear masks with no problem…as long as we’re giving them mask breaks. Occasionally a student gets frustrated or stressed or they take the mask off. As long as we’re understanding about that most of our kids, the vast majority of our kids are successful wearing masks,” he said. 

There are also questions about vaccinations among children. In the Finger Lakes region, only 44 percent of those ages 12-15 are vaccinated and 52 percent of those 16-18 have gotten the shot. 

“We’re really hoping that those numbers will go up before the school starts,” said Dr. Nancy Bennett, the Co-Chair of Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub. “We hope that soon we will have vaccine that is approved for the younger age group because the younger children are still vulnerable now, which is why it’s so important that all the rest of us get vaccinated so that we can protect them.”

When it comes to vaccine mandates, Dr. Van Scoy said those would come from the state, not local school districts. However, Dr. Bennett said it’s important schools are encouraging eligible students to get the shot. 

“That may mean working with the county health department to have special clinics, or setting up really easy ways for people to get to vaccine clinics that already exist, but I think that’s going to be critical to getting school off to a good start,” Dr. Bennett said. 

Many school districts have told News 8 they plan to release their guidance this week. 

The Rochester City School District became one of the first to announced their plans last Friday, with protocols like mask wearing, health screening, and temperature checks.

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