School districts seek input on potential reopen of schools

Gauging how school families feel about possible return.
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 10, 2020

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — School districts are trying to figure out what a new school year could look like this fall if students were given the okay to return. From school buses, to lunchrooms to sports, the coronavirus pandemic has created a huge amount of uncertainty for education.

But now some school districts in Erie County are trying to gauge how parents, students and the community feel about a possible school reopen this fall. School districts seek input on possible reopening districts seek input on possible reopening.

This survey is now being circulated by more than a dozen school districtsasking for input on the re-opening schools. The answers will help districts better prepare and develop plans and protocols. School leaders want to be ready to keep students and staff safe if they return to the classroom.

Michael Cornell, superintendent, Hamburg Central School District.

“We’re like 95 days away from the first day of school and a lot of water will flow under the bridge over the course of those 95 days,” said Michael Cornell, superintendent, Hamburg Central School District.

Cornell said survey questions, now being sent to school families in more than a dozen local school districts, including Amherst, Lancaster & West Seneca.

“Mask wearing, having students transported on the bus,” Cornell described.

Leaders in Cornell's district, like so many others, are trying to gauge how parents, students, teachers, staff and other stakeholders are feeling about a possible return to school.

Many families say they have been struggling with on-line learning as they navigate their own work lives from home.

“’It's a simple question that ask people to identify what their current employment status is and whether or not having children come back to school would be helpful to them either maintaining their current level of employment or improving it,” Cornell explained.

The survey asks for responses to staggered start times, no lunchrooms, no auditorium gatherings and the daily temperature taking of students and staff.

One of the survey questions also inquires if schools do reopen in September, should school playgrounds reopen?

“Though it's difficult to anticipate what will weigh heavily on people in early September when it's actually time to go back,” Cornell said.

Inside a school classroom.

"You still have to have the directive from the state and the governor on that decision?” Buckley asked. “Absolutely, I think the most prudent expectation would be that the governor, Department of Health, will have guidelines we will have to follow regarding how we return,” replied Cornell.

Cornell noted the coronavirus changing so quickly, nothing is certain, but he says he believes districts will continue to adapt to executive orders.

“So many of the things that will impact those decisions are simply unknowable at this point,” Cornell noted.

Cornell is a member of the New York State Education Department’s Regional Reopening Task Force. The task force will hold a meeting June 15th. The survey will be active through Friday, June 19th.

“We also felt an obligation to make sure our participation on that task force would be informed by the feelings of our friends and neighbors,” Cornell remarked.

Cornell said the survey was spearheaded by City of Tonawanda Schools Superintendent Dr. Timothy Oldenburg.

Cornell said the most important aspect is working to keep everyone safe.