The NYS Department of Education says they will offer a summary guidance document to aid schools and districts as they prepare for the 2021-22 school year. They say the document will be based on CDC and AAP (American Academy of Pediatricts) guidelines, and say it's necessary, in light of the continued absence of health-related school opening direction and assistance from the Governor's Office and State Department of Health.
Some local school districts, already aware of CDC recommendations, have already made their policies for this fall.
"In the fall, we will open with universal masking for staff and students another thing we'll be folowing social distance guidelines like we did last year, three feet, yes, and also we're not gonna be offering a remote option this year. It's gonna be full in person," says Utica School Superintendent, Bruce Karam. "You have a lot of students that have been on remote for a year and a half. That's a long time. The research shows that's not an optimal way to learn. We don't want students to fall further and further behind."
The Rome City School District is still collecting thoughts and opinions from families, through their Thought Exchange online program. But they know, in part, what back to school will look like.
"We do know that we do not plan on having a voluntary remote option. We will follow the same path a lot of districts are doing, if you have a medical need you can apply for that and then there will be a program students can participate in through BOCES," says Rome School Superintendent, Peter Blake.
Blake says masks have been the most polarizing issue, according to feedback from the Thought Exchange program.
"Very polarizing. You've got those that are anti mask very strongly, saying don't wear masks and those that are very pro health concerns, wear masks all the time," says Blake, adding that the chasm is bridged by a common goal.
"While there's polarizing viewpoints and people are on two sides of the fence, those two sides of the fence are coming together on 'do whatever you have to do to keep schools open.'"
Rome plans to release their full back-to-school plan by the end of next week.