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'That's a definite no': WNY school leaders nix idea of returning to virtual learning amid high case count

"Schools are safe, school is important and schools need to remain open five days a week to all kids."
Remote learning
Posted at 11:47 PM, Nov 22, 2021

ERIE & NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Public Schools district has dismissed any kind of word of mouth, regarding the return to remote education as a result of higher case numbers.

This week, students in Buffalo will get a longer-than expected Thanksgiving break.

Schools will be closed on Wednesday, but students will return to the classroom Monday.

7ABC has learned a few other local school districts also have no plans to allow students to learn from home.

"That's a definite 'no'," Niagara Falls City Schools superintendent, Mark Laurrie told Pheben Kassahun.

The return in remote learning is not something Niagara City Schools officials, or even the county, are entertaining because school officials do not see a correlation between community transmission and schools.

"Not one that I support or the Board of Education at Niagara Falls supports for a couple of very specific reasons: transmission of COVID is not, to the best of my knowledge in recent occurring in schools. Unless other locations, other places such as stores and events are closed down again, we would just be pushing more people to congregate in those places by closing schools," Laurrie added.

He said returning to fully remote learning would have to be a forced decision due to health conditions, by the state and city government, along with health officials.

"Even when we did that, it would be for a very short window. I'm talking five to ten days depending on the quarantine regulations and rules of that classroom," recalled from last year's remote learning plan.

Hamburg Central Schools superintendent, Michael Cornell agrees.

Cornell said, "Schools are safe, school is important and schools need to remain open five days a week to all kids."

Cornell, who is also the president of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents, said COVID-19 transmission within the school district has been extremely rare, since September 2020.

He stated returning to remote learning will be detrimental to learning across the board for school aged children.

"We know schools are vitally important to the life of every child for all kinds of reasons; academically, socially, socially, emotionally, mentally, physically, nutritionally. Schools are an essential part of the life of every school-aged child," Cornell said. "Kids being in person, in the space with their friends. There's no substitute academically for in person learning. Learning is a social endeavor done best in person in collaboration with their classmates in the company of our great teachers."

Additionally, teachers are also on the same page with school leaders.

"Unless it is something that comes from any dangerous situations that's going to endanger their lives, their family's lives, the community or anybody's lives, Buffalo teachers want to keep teaching it in person as long as it's not this idiocy that the district is doing where they are trying to have teachers teach," Buffalo Teachers Federation president, Phil Rumore said. "To this date, it is still difficult because all of the students do not have laptops, etc. so it would be a real problem now because they don't have a laptop. It was something that was very difficult because we had to have people go out, make contact with the homes, finding out which problem with the homes."

This time last year, schools in Erie County and Niagara County were forced to return to in person learning.The 7-day percentage rate for COVID-19 the week of Thanksgiving 2020 for the two counties were as follows:

Erie County: 6.7% (Nov. 24, 2020)

Niagara County: 6.8% (Nov. 29, 2020)

This week, just days before Thanksgiving Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated the percentage rate for COVID-19 for the two countries are as follows:

Erie County: 10.46%

Niagara County: 10.77%

It is important to note, however, vaccines are present this year. As of Monday, Nov. 22, Erie County's vaccination rate for children over the age of 12 sits at 72.9%. Niagara County's vaccine rate is 70.2%.

As of Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, Erie County's 7-day COVID-19 positivity rate sits at 10.46%. The county's vaccination rate sits at 72.9%.
As of Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, Niagara County's 7-day COVID-19 positivity rate sits at 10.77%. The county's vaccination rate sits at 70.2%.