Hamburg School District superintendent ’optimist’ over bringing students back to school based on new state guidelines

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(WIVB) – The state is easing up on the COVID-19 testing requirements school districts faced when in an orange or red zone. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the changes on Monday, which make it easier for schools to have students in the classroom again.

“We believe in keeping especially K through 8 open,” Cuomo said during a news conference. “The schools are safer than the surrounding community and children can get an education and parents can work, etc.” 

Many school districts, including the Hamburg Central School District found that once it was designated as an orange zone, keeping the schools open was a challenge. Previously in the Orange zone, schools needed to close for four days and on the fifth day they could reopen but everyone entering the building needed to test negative for coronavirus first.

“We’d have to do 75,000 in the period of 7 days under the original iteration of those guidelines,” said Hamburg school superintendent Michael Cornell. “It just makes a lot more sense for them to adjust it.”

Cornell says the Hamburg School district was among the school districts that pushed for state leaders to reevaluate the guidelines. 

“We’re grateful that our voice was heard over the course of the last week or so,” he said. “We certainly were active in our advocacy and we’re grateful that our voice was heard, along with other people around the state who thought it was really important for us to have kids in school.”

Now, school districts in an orange zone have to test at least 20 percent of students and staff each month. If schools are in the red zone, it’s 30 percent a month. Cornell says that’s a lot more achievable. 

“Based on everything we know at the moment, it certainly seems like it makes being open in-person for students and staff much more feasible from a logistical perspective and from a financial perspective,” Cornell said. 

The Hamburg school district is waiting on more guidance from the state, which they expect to receive in the next few days, before they outline plans on bringing students back. 

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