WNY school districts address rise in COVID cases, say remote learning is a last resort

Education

(WIVB) — As COVID-19 cases across Western New York surge, school districts are speaking out tonight saying it’s unlikely students will have to learn from home again. School leaders tell News 4 that despite the rise in cases, schools continue to be safe for students.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in cases. There’s no doubt about it. What I do know is that transmission continues to not occur in schools,” said Niagara Falls School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie.

“Any increase in the cases we report are really in almost every instance, are contracted outside of the school setting,” said Hamburg School District Superintendent Michael Cornell.

As it approaches the holiday season and colder months, local school leaders and health experts expect COVID-19 cases will continue to rise. Lately, more school-aged children are getting sick.

Over the last two weeks in the Buffalo Public School District, more than 400 people including students and staff, tested positive for covid.

“We’re concerned. We’re paying attention to it. But we had our board meeting the other night and there was no determination to have any school or the district go full remote,” said BPS board member Larry Scott.

Scott, along with other school leaders say because of the guidelines in school, more students are catching the disease outside of school, than in the classroom.

“Schools are every bit of safe today as they have been throughout the entire pandemic,” Cornell said adding that remote learning should be a last resort option only.

“Closing that setting should only be considered if every other part of society is closed and schools are required to close with it,” Cornell said. “Schools closing should be the absolute last thing to close. Period.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. John Crane tells News 4 that if more people get sick, schools might not have a choice.

“If the number of cases keeps going up steeply our school superintendents may have no choice but to do that which would be very unpopular,” he said.

“It’s not like it’s just an outbreak in the schools only, we’re also seeing spread in the community especially people in the teenage years to age 40 or so,” Dr. Crane added.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, health experts are encouraging people to keep their family gatherings small this holiday season and get vaccinated if they haven’t yet or get the booster shot.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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