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Is an extended school year a possibility?

Posted at 11:33 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 23:33:58-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — City of Niagara Falls school district superintendent Mark Laurrie said schools are heading for a learning pandemic.

“We have to start recovering and the summer is going to be the perfect time to do it,” Laurrie said.

He said in grades 7-12 grades for hybrid learning students are about the same as this time last year, but grades for fully remote students are down about 10%.

He said the district has plans for a summer program, and now needs the latest COVID-19 relief bill to pass in Washington. The bill has money for schools.

“I’m talking about a K-12 program, but there’s certainly no way to force students to come, but it could be strongly recommended and highly suggested,” Laurrie said.

In a CNN Town Hall earlier this week, President Joe Biden predicts many schools will try to make up for lost learning.

“My guess is, they’re gonna probably be pushing to open all summer, to continue like it’s a different semester,” Biden said.

An extension of the official school year is unlikely. Laurrie said that would require a change in state law and change in the collective bargaining agreements of teachers unions in more than 700 districts.

“Opening up the June 20th window and say we're gonna move it to July 20th is a herculean feat," Laurrie said.

In a statement regarding an extended school year, Buffalo Public Schools spokesperson Elena Cala said, "We would like to hear further details before commenting, particularly how it is proposed to be funded."

Biden was asked when he expects K-8 students to return to classrooms five days a week.

“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days," Biden said. "We've had a significant percentage of them being able to be open.”

His first 100 days ends near the end of April.

Laurrie said a full return of K-8 students is not realistic for his district until there's clearer guidance on what the safe distance between students is. Recent CDC guidance on school reopening recommends six feet between desks when feasible.

“The physical size of the school will not allow K-8 kids to come back and have six feet of social distance,” Laurrie said.

Biden said it's tougher for high schools to be open because those students can more easily spread the virus.