School reopen safety task force to include Genesee, Wyoming & Orleans counties

Finger Lakes task force to assist up to 12 counties
Posted at 5:20 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 17:21:02-04

BATAVIA, NY (WKBW) — “That they will have an open portal by which to get the medical guidance for educators, school staff and parents,” remarked Wade Norwood, CEO, Common Ground Health.

As school families face so much uncertainty in this unprecedented time, a new task force has emerged to assist those in the Finger Lakes region that includes Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties in Western New York.

Wade Norwood, CEO, Common Ground Health, at a news briefing about the new task force held in Rochester Friday.

The task force says it is ready to support the physical and emotional health and safety of students and families. It’s called the Finger Lakes Reopening Schools Safely Task Force.

More than 40-members from public health, health care, education and non profits make up this group. It is all created to deal with the complex challenges this pandemic has created for schools.

The group is led by the organization Common Ground Health in the Finger Lakes region.

“To make sure that we create an effective bridge between our educators and clinical and our health community,” Norwood explained.

Norwood noted the task force will help everyone navigate an unknown territory as schools safely reopen to answer questions, like what happens if student or teacher has COVID while back in the classroom?

“And since schools and doctors speak their own different language — how can we help them talk in the room with parents and community,” Norwood replied.

12 counties in the finger lakes would benefit from the task force that would include school districts in Genesee County.

Batavia City Schools superintendent Anibal Soler said he believes the task force would be a great resource for his region.

batavia super .jpg
Batavia City Schools superintendent Anibal Soler in a Zoom interview about reopen plans/

“They're going to obviously work with the medical health professionals and get some clear guidance and really provide some consistency across the region,” Soler described.

The Batavia school leader says it's so important for families to have as much support to ensure emotional and health safety as districts deliver reopening plans.

“We’re just here to try to provide the best safe option and implement the guidelines as best as possible and I think we've done that,” remarked Soler.

The superintendent says they are finalizing their reopen plan and will submit it to the state Friday.

There are approximately 2,100 students who attend four schools in the city of Batavia School and families have already been notified about options.

“We are offering all three options — in-person for some students everyday — in-person every other day and then fully virtual option as well,” Soler said.

For in-school learning, Batavia city students will return alphabetically:

  • A through L will come to classes Mondays and Wednesdays
  • M through Z Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Fridays will be a virtual remote day

But a family can opt for all virtual learning. Students with special needs will be allowed to attend five days a week.

“So we did give a virtual option to allow families who may feel extremely unsafe,” Soler noted.

Busing is a major issue for districts, especially in communities were many students rely on yellow school buses or public transportation.

About 70-percent of public school students in Batavia rely on school buses.

Parents are being asked to try to transport their children to school because buses won’t be allowed to transport as many students due to social distancing regulations.

batavia leader .jpg
Batavia City Schools superintendent Anibal Soler.

“I think that's important because we can't have more than one kid in the seat given some of the guidance,” explained Soler.

Under state guidelines, students would be required to wear a face mask on buses. They would also need to wear a mask inside school buildings, when social distancing is not possible.

“I think that's probably the hottest topic across the state right now — is the mask and the social distancing. Our interpretation is when kids are sitting at their desks they will be able to take their masks off — get a break — a breather break,” said Soler.

If school does reopen in the fall the first day of school for all Batavia city students is September 9th.