School superintendents relieved to get more clarity about reopening

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NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WIVB) “I feel energized now. Now the picture is clear. Now we’ve got to work on our execution,” said Niagara Falls City School District superintendent Mark Laurrie hours after Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that all school districts can reopen on the condition that they hold at least three informational sessions for parents before August 21.

Laurrie says parents should hear within a day or two when they can join the discussion about reopening and even come to open houses before school opens. “We’re gonna try to use various types of mediums whether it’s our local access station for education, possibly the radio, possibly some social media outlets, go-to webinars, we’ll reach out beyond three.”

The governor also clarified today that while districts have to post plans for testing students who show symptoms, the districts themselves don’t have to actually do the testing.

That came as a relief to Dan Ljiljanich, superintendent of the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District. “That clarification was really important for all districts knowing that we need to work with our health department on that plan and now we need to make sure that our health department’s able to manage that for us.”

In the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District, Superintendent Ljanjanich says students will start with a hybrid schedule, but if all goes well, the elementary students will move to five days a week in class by the end of September.

The transportation plan is also taking shape according to Ljiljanich. “One of the benefits to the early survey we put out was that approximately 50% of our parents said they were gonna transport, so that certainly helps us when it comes to transporting this year.”

The latest survey by New York State United Teachers indicates that half of teachers are reluctant about coming back and 81% say the health and safety of students should be the deciding factor in reopening, according to local NYSUT board member, Peter Stuhlmiller.

“Because teachers know that kids come first and there’s no point in rolling out a decent lesson in economics, or government or reading if we have kids sick or bringing home a virus for which there is no lure to their parents and grandparents,” said Stuhlmiller.

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