CHEEKTOWAGA, NY (WKBW) — School families who don't want to send their children to school for fears of COVID are being told their only option is to home school their child.
Western New York school districts are not required to offer full remote learning for students, unless they have a medical or religious reason.
“A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” sang Gracie Utech.
Utech, 4, says she is excited and ready to start kindergarten in the Cleveland Hill School District when the new school year begins September 7.
But her mother, Jaime Wade, is not willing to send Gracie into the classroom because Wade has rheumatoid arthritis.
Health experts ay those with autoimmune disease are at a much higher risk for getting COVID.
“Risking it is very — very complicated, difficult and heartbreaking,” declared Wade.
Erie 1 BOCES is teaming with school districts to provide remote learning through an eAcademy for immunocompromised students.
But what about if a family member is immunocompromised?
Wade is fully vaccinated and will receive her booster vaccine Friday night.
“My two vaccines that I received did not work — my body did not build any antibodies,” Wade explained.
Wade is worried Gracie could carry COVID home, so she asked the school district if her daughter could be enrolled in a remote program.
“I provided all the paper work — their answer — in three letters — letting me know three times — that she was un-eligible because she is not autoimmune compromised,” remarked Wade.
Wade included a letter from her doctor saying it is “reasonable” for her daughter Gracie to continue remote learning.
She also submitted a letter from Gracie's doctor also requesting remote learning for her daughter.
“I just think it's very unfair that she's being punished because of my disability,” said Wade.
Cleveland Hill Schools Superintendent Jon MacSwan sent letters to Wade noting the district is partnering with Erie 1 BOCES to provide remote learning options for students with medical conditions, but not for for parents or family members with underlying conditions.
“What is your recourse?" Buckley asked Wade.
“I’ve contacted a disability lawyer — I’m working with a teacher she worked with last year trying to see if we can coordinate classes or create some kind of home school program for her,” replied Wade.
The superintendent was not available for comment but issued a written statement.
"The Cleveland Hill schools have, for decades, accommodated the unique needs of children whose health-related circumstances make in-person school attendance dangerous to their personal health. We continue to be thoughtful in how we apply resources on behalf of children with unique personal health needs, as we make good on our commitment to ensuring that every child has 180 days of inspiring learning during the 2021-2022 school year. Consistent with our District’s values and State Education Department requirements, the district has accommodated for the unique personal health needs of each student whose families have provided the required documentation."
Cleveland Hill School District
It says in part "the district has accommodated for the unique personal health needs of each student whose families have provided the required documentation."
But it does not specifically address wade's situation.
“Green, purple...maybe some pink,” Gracie chatted about knowing her colors.
For now the mother of this adorable kindergartner will have to opt for home school for her daughter without district support.
“The option was no remote for her at all — no zoom is being offered and its home school only,” said Wade.
7 Eyewitness News reached out to the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) to see if they have any answers.
NYSED issued the following statement:
"The Department is currently working to provide further direction for districts on providing a remote option for students and will make this available in the coming weeks. Please see page two ofCommissioner Rosa’s memo of July 29 [nysed.gov]for more on the Department’s position."
I also contacted New York State Regent representative Catherine Collins in Buffalo. She took Wade's number and told me she would contact state ed to see if they could assist.