Covid transmission challenging classroom reopens

Getting some students back five days a week
Posted at 6:37 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 10:53:27-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Many school districts are planning to try to return students to full, five-day a week learning Monday.

school desk.jpg
Inside a classroom.

Two of the areas largest school districts, Buffalo and Niagara Falls are making plans to return more students, but there still are restrictions to follow.

By Monday, students at elementary schools will finally be allowed to return to full-five-day a week learning in Niagara Falls.

“It’s really about time that our students started to get back some sort of normalcy and back to school,” stated Mark Laurrie, superintendent, Niagara Falls City School District.

But Laurrie says unfortunately middle schoolers and high school seniors won't be back full-time in the classroom because of higher transmission rates of Covid in Niagara County.

Mark Laurrie, superintendent, Niagara Falls City School District in Zoom interview.

“I would very much love to have our high school and middle school students back, but by the state rules, we’re not even close to be able to do that,” Laurrie explained.

Under New York State guidelines, the county must have less than 100-positive cases per 1,000 people for middle and high schoolers to be back in a classroom full-time at three-feet apart.

But right now in Niagara County there are 321 cases, three times the limit, preventing Laurrie from bringing that batch of students back.

Transmission rates are also high in Erie County as the Buffalo Public School District prepares for phase three reopening.

On Monday city high schoolers will be brought back on a hybrid learning model.

But the city of Buffalo now has the highest transmission rates in the county, especially in the east Buffalo 14204 zip code with 851 cases, posing a risk to the school community.

Dennis Kuo, medical director, Buffalo Public Schools, at school board meeting.

“The fact that our cases are six to 8 times higher than the red zone threshold,” said Dennis Kuo, medical director, Buffalo Public Schools.

At a city school board meeting Wednesday, Kuo told the told the goal is to prevent transmission in schools.

City schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash says he would like the district to conduct more Covid testing.

“Can we do that? Do we have the tests? Do we have the tests available to do that to do that?” Cash questioned.

“They're available — they are there for use if we see any hint that there might be concern in the school,” Kuo responded.

Outside Niagara Falls High School.

School leaders say the state metrics on transmission rates continue to make it very difficult for reopening to more students.

“The most trying thing would be to get under that threshold, then under it again, then have kids flip flop back and forth that's not something we want to do,” replied Laurrie.