HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County schools are “fully prepared” to maintain in-person instruction following the winter break, according to a local educational leader.

Bo Wright, Rush-Henrietta Central School District Superintendent, and the current President of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents, hosted a media briefing Wednesday morning to address how local districts are preparing to reopen schools after the winter break, testing resources in schools and more.

Wright said districts throughout the county are committed to in-person learning, and said at-home or remote instructional models would only be used as a “last resort.”

“The omicron variant is impacting businesses, communities and schools across the globe,” Wright said. “We know that in-person school is best for kids; for their emotional health, general health and learning. As we look ahead, we are going to do everything we can for kids to learn safely at school. That means more testing kits in our school.”

The governor announced last week that, the governor New York was set to receive 5 million at-home COVID-19 test kits by December 31, with 2 million of that allotment earmarked for school districts to assist with necessary test to stay resources.

“At this point, there is no definitive date of when we’re getting these tests from the state, but we will try to get those to the hands of parents as soon as possible,” Wright said.

Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul endorsed test to stay and encouraged all school districts to adopt this policy

“The CDC confirmed that test to stay works and now we are highly recommending that counties and school district implement this, and we’ll work with them,” Gov. Hochul said on Christmas Eve. “We have the tests to be able to give to the schools.”

“This is a protocol that most schools in Monroe have adopted,” Wright said. “We will continue with this practice moving forward; most of our schools had a lot of success with this and keeping kids in school. We are ready to comply with the protocol moving forward, but some details need to be ironed out.”

Additionally, the governor announced last week a reduction in quarantine and isolation time for the state’s critical workforce, something that Superintendent Wright said could help with ongoing staffing issues at local districts. Several districts recently have been forced to cancel a school day due to staffing shortages.

“Fully vaccinated people can return to work in five days, but will need to wear KN95 masks,” Wright said. “This is a big step towards talking about the staffing shortages. We will need some more guidance and details, but we urge our staff to continue to stay as vigilant as possible. The new details involve some language that our local department has to get clarity on.”

“This is not delta, or the first variant,” Gov. Hochul said last week. “This is omicron, and thus far it has demonstrated it’s not as severe in its impact and therefore we want to make sure that our critical workforce, who we’ve relied on from the beginning, can get back to work.”

The governor has said keeping schools open remains a priority for her administration, but the effort to do so comes as New York is seeing its highest COVID-19 case rates ever. In terms of the volume of new cases, omicron has presented the highest levels to date during the pandemic for New York state.

“It’s interesting because as cases were surging around us, we weren’t seeing a lot of surges in our school before the holiday break, which is a testament to how schools follow the protocols,” Wright said.

Wright said local educational leaders appreciated the continued “patience and support” they have received from families during these difficult times.

“Truly appreciative,” Wright said of parental support. “The steps we are looking to take are all positive steps t promote in-person learning. We have to continue to use smart decisions and common sense around health and safety.”

Full Press Conference:

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