Back to School: Monroe County education leader on concerns ahead of reopening

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — President of the Monroe County Council of Superintendents Bo Wright discussed key topics of concern Monday morning ranging from mask-wearing, heated board meetings, mental health and staffing shortages.

Wright says districts have had a lot more flexibility in their reopening plans, but they’re not doing it alone.

“Protocols are in alignment with the state education department, the CDC, local health department and most recently guidance that came from our governor’s office,” said Wright.

The recent guidance he’s referring to is a mask mandate for all students and staff, statewide. Wright says most districts anticipated this announcement, and had been planning for it.

The topic has also sparked a few heated board meetings, which Wright addressed Monday. He says parents are always welcome to participate in these meetings but reminds them to be respectful. If a student should come to school refusing to wear one, it’ll be a matter of working with them and their family. 

“I think we had the same concerns a year ago as we were opening schools, people asked, ‘Well what if students refuse a mask, parents refuse.’ But I can’t think of a case here in Henrietta where we weren’t able to work with students and families to resolve those issues,” said Wright.

Wright says last year students were generally good about following protocols and wearing their mask, because they wanted to be in school. He says he’s confident that behavior will continue into the new year.

Ariel DiLuca, parent of a 6 and 8 year old in the Greece Central School District agrees.

“I’m pretty sure the kids just want to get back to school too and be social again,” she said. “I have a kindergartner who is now going into first grade he is so excited to actually be able to fully see what school is like being in school 5 days a week.”

She says the past year was a lot on her children. Dealing with constant change in protocols, and struggles with remote learning. Keeping up with schoolwork wasn’t easy. “My son was in special education he was already behind,” she said.

Wright says there are no plans to return to remote learning down the road; he’s committing to a full year of keeping kids in the classroom. The trade off for that he says, is wearing the mask.

“There would have to be a colossal failure of community mitigation strategies in order for us to revert to where we were in Spring of 2020,” he said.

Wright says depending on COVID transmission, or certain clusters popping up, you may see small groups quarantining in school, or even an entire classroom. He says the county is providing detailed guidance for how districts can handle an outbreak.

Wright says almost 90 percent of staff members across Monroe County schools have been vaccinated.

The Rochester City School District is one district requiring vaccination or weekly testing for all employees.

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