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Local schools consider new CDC guidelines

Daily Messenger - 3/24/2021

Canandaigua school district officials can make moves toward fully reopening this school year, according to Superintendent Jamie Farr.

Farr's comments followed last Friday's announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that students can maintain a distance of 3 feet in the classroom with universal mask-wearing in place,

Farr stated that "we believe we can make efforts to fully reopen this school year and we are awaiting NYSDOH endorsement or more likely at this point, our local Public Health endorsement to make it entirely official."

In a virtual Community Forum meeting held Tuesday evening, Farr delved into additional detail surrounding the next steps that would happen before the district could fully re-open. According to Farr, the biggest obstacle to bringing students back for full-time learning was the 6-feet of social distancing rule, due to the layout of classrooms. A recent study cited by Farr, revealing that there was no difference in transmission rates between 6 feet and 3 feet, seemed to help pave the way toward the new guidance.

"It got a lot of attention, the research that was done in Massachusetts, that caused a number of entities to say, do we need to re-evaluate the six feet concept?" Farr said.

While the change has already been implemented at a federal level, Farr noted that these guidelines still needed to be implemented at a state and local level, although all health officials had been supportive, including New York's Commissioner of Public Health Howard Zucker, Monroe County's Commissioner of Public Health Michael Mendoza and Ontario County Public Health.

"Our goal, all along, has been to be back, in-person, five days a week, all along," he said, no matter if it was "virtual and synchronous or in-person."

But we need those guidelines to change, and right now it appears as though we need those guidelines to change with the New York State Department of Health," he added.

Farr also said that "schools in Monroe County are doing exactly what we're doing. We're announcing our plans and we're preparing. But we need New York State Department of Health to help out here and to change some guidelines."

The Victor school district was also communicating with parents following the CDC's latest guidance, holding a virtual Town Hall Wednesday night. A letter from Superintendent Tim Terranova was also sent out to the community Friday after the guidance was released. In it, Terranova stated that the district qualifies for 3 feet of social distancing due to the low transmission rates.

Terranova also provided an excerpt from Ontario County Administrator Christopher DeBolt, who stated that the county was "encouraged by the recent announcement by CDC making modifications to their K-12 operational guidelines. The County is fully supportive of any local school district that decides to implement these new guidelines after consulting with their Medical Director, School Board, staff, and community."

Terranova also made clear that the district staff had been "proactively working on logistics for a possible reopening," in recent weeks, before making clear that there was more work to be done, including clarifying procedures for lunches and buses, along with guidance at the state level.

"We are targeting the second half of April for a safe return to full time, in-person instruction with a 100% virtual option for students. We will continue to send updated information as we receive it," Terranova said.

According to the official guidance from the CDC, elementary school students should remain 3 feet apart in classrooms with universal mask use, regardless of community transmission. As for middle and high school students, the CDC recommended that the 3 feet of distancing was permissible in communities with low, moderate or substantial transmission. For any communities with high transmission, they recommended middle and high school students have 6 feet of social distancing.

This article originally appeared on MPNnow: Local schools consider new CDC guidelines


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