BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The calls for bringing students back to full-five-day a week in-person learning heating up once again.
This time a state republican lawmaker is proposing a bill to repeal the six-feet distance rule in classrooms.
“We need to get our kids back in the classroom,” declared David DiPietro, New York State Assemblyman.
DiPietro joined republican Congressman Chris Jacobs and other local GOP lawmakers to sound the alarm about the ill-effects some children are experiencing because of too much remote learning.
That is why DiPietro is proposing a bill to repeal the six-foot rule to students fully back to school.
“This bill repeals the six foot,” explained DiPietro. “That six foot to three foot has nothing to do with science. “It’s political and anyone, anyone who wants to debate that — I’m willing to go any where — anytime."
Dipietro says he has about 30-doctors who can back him up, including the chief medical officer at Oishei Children's Hospital, Dr. Stephen Turkovich.
But Doctor Turkovich was unable to attend the news conference. Instead, Children's issued a statement saying in part they "believe that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to reopening area schools".
“As health care providers deeply entrenched in the mental, physical and emotional well-being of our community’s children, we support evidence-based solutions to reopen area schools safely for all students, teachers and staff.
We believe that our schools are complex ecosystems that require individualized risk reduction plans to address the unique needs of different populations and physical environments. We also believe that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to reopening area schools. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines the key principles to safe in-person learning [services.aap.org] as follows:
o Universal masking
o Physical distancing measures
o Frequent hand washing
o Frequent cleaning and disinfection
o Stay home if you are ill
We will continue to offer the best and most current guidance as new evidence arises and look forward to working collaboratively with all key stakeholders to achieve our common goal of safely getting kids back to school. We encourage everyone to continue to wear masks, wash hands frequently and get vaccinated to help continue to reduce community spread.
As Western New Yorkers, we all have a role to play in ensuring that our children return to in-person learning. It's the responsibility of the collective – school leadership, teachers, parents, health experts and elected officials – to work together to implement risk reduction strategies and provide our kids with a safe environment where they can learn and grow.”
But a nurse practitioner and social worker did speak about mental health difficulties some students are experiencing.
“’I’ve seen an increase in depression anxiety, suicidal ideation and attempts by even children who are five years old — six year's old,” explained the social worker.
Meanwhile, HoganWillig Law Firm tells 7 eyewitness news it is representing parents who are fighting for full in-school learning and plan to file lawsuits against several school districts, including the Lewiston-Porter Central Schools District.
But districts say their hands are tied because of the state recommendation to keep students six feet of distance between students in classrooms, which limits the capacity.
“I cannot bring all 1,700 kids that are in the hybrid model — I cannot bring them on campus given our class size or space of our rooms — all our buildings and the personal that I have to teach them. I just can't do it,” explained Paul Casseri, superintendent, Lew-Port.
We asked Casseri about the potential lawsuit.
“You’re hearing from a group of very local parents, who have initiated this lawsuit. But there are many parents on the other side who are very comfortable with what we are doing,” replied Casseri.
Casseri noted it will be costly to engage a legal counsel if the suit is filed against is district.
“It’s unfortunate,” Casseri responded.
The law firm said other lawsuit are expected to be filed against school districts in Grand Island, Clarence, Kenmore-Tonawanda and Williamsville.
The firm said there are also parents in the Lancaster, Frontier and Royalton-Hartland districts considering suits.
“We hoping to file middle of next week. We don’t want to wait any longer,” stated Corey Hogan, attorney. “We're trying to accumulate information from the CDC and New York State Department of Health. They’ve got about 150 pages of regulation that are making impossible to open the schools."