Are Schools Expecting to Reopen This Academic Year?

"...probably about 50/50 that we won't return at this point."

Brendan Keany
April 01, 2020 - 11:34 pm
Niagara Falls High School

Niagara Falls School District

NEW YORK (WBEN) - As every day passes, it appears more and more unlikely that local schools will be reopening their doors April 20.

"I can't see anything happening before April 30," said Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie. "I think we have to remember that once we hit our apex of this health crisis, we still have to come down."

In fact, Laurrie isn't positive that school will restart at all this academic year.

"I would think that we're probably about 50/50 that we won't return at this point," he said. "I think we'll know much more around the end of April - again, I think it all depends on that apex."

Listen to Laurrie's full comments below:

Hamburg Schools Superintendent Michael Cornell didn't want to speculate on a possible date of return, but he says the district will be ready for whatever decision is made.

"I don't know when a decision would be made about when we'll return," said Cornell. "All I can say for the Hamburg Central School District is that we just really want to make sure throughout, that our students are engaged in activities that allow them to create, care, solve and discover, and have their intellect and curiosity stimulated in meaningful ways. That's the commitment we made...whether it will be two weeks, six weeks or eight weeks, the commitment we made is the commitment we're going to keep.

"As for when school is considered safe to open, I'll trust the governor to make a good decision on that," Cornell continued. "My role as a superintendent is to continue to engage our students in meaningful thinking and learning during the time that we're closed."

Making sure that students are equipped with the materials to make the most of their extended time at home represents another complex issue. Districts are trying to navigate issues with instruction, feedback and equality of available resources.

According to Laurrie, some of the directives they've received from the state include continued learning through what is traditionally Easter Break for the district, maintaining the distribution of meals, and providing child care for families with first responders.

"As we move forward, each teacher will have the minimum of a webpage whereby they're going to push out the most recent work they have for kids," Laurrie said. "There are many homes in Niagara Falls that don't have Internet access, and we still need to provide the written packet for them. It's a very complex process in Niagara Falls where we have 7,250 kids, and we want to be equitable and fair to all of them and give them the best free and appropriate education we can."

Cornell said that student access isn't as much an issue in the Hamburg district, but they're making special accommodations for the families that could have problems.

"The directives were to make sure that we're providing continuity of instruction, and they want to make sure that we had a firm grasp on ensuring equity of access to the learning," he said. "Generally, our families have access to the Internet devices, and we've had to just kind of work with families individually, depending on their circumstances, to make sure that everybody else has the same access."

Listen to Cornell's full comments below:

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