Erie County school districts explore new re-opening requirements

Posted at 5:11 PM, Dec 01, 2020

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WKBW) — You might call it controlled chaos inside Ryan and Olivia Schwarzott’s Hamburg home.

“There have definitely been days I want to pull my hair out or go find a corner and cry,” Olivia said.

That’s because, with schools closed, six out of seven children have remote instruction.

She’s one of countless parents across Erie County’s Orange Zone who want schools to re-open as long as its done safely.

“They learn best at school, in person with a teacher where they can ask questions freely,” she said.

Michael Cornell is the Hamburg School Superintendent and the President of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association. He said we can expect to see districts that offered in-person instruction before thanksgiving meet the new 20 percent monthly testing requirements and re-open again. However, he said the devil’s in the details. School leaders still haven’t seen the state’s new plan in writing.

"It certainly seems as though testing in an Orange Zone is more feasible from a logistical and a financial perspective,” Cornell explained.

Erie County school districts will have one less testing hurtle. The Erie County Department of Health announced Tuesday it has obtained a new limited service lab license, which is required for districts testing on school grounds. The county had been critical of allowing schools access to its license which is why it said it applied for another one.

“From a practical perspective, we were concerned how schools, which do not typically provide medical services, could carry out these programs safely and with quality results. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said in a statement. “Our emergency preparedness team has used this time to obtain a new LSL and develop a plan that addresses our concerns and meets the needs of schools that choose to provide diagnostic COVID-19 tests to continue or resume in-person learning.”

Cornell said no district has set a timeline for when students will be back in the classroom. In Hamburg’s case, it is in the process of surveying parents to find out whether they’d consent to testing.

"We don't predict, we prepare," he said.