Experts recommend a return to school this fall

"Our goal is to get back to what we thought was normal "

Tom Puckett
July 06, 2020 - 4:00 am

    Niagara Falls, NY (WBEN) - Everyone seems to have an opinion on how schools should approach returning to learning this fall.  And questions remain unanswered for many school districts across the region and New York State.  

    Will there be a return to buildings?  What type of precautions need to be taken?

    In the end, only one opinion will mattter, that of the districts as they apply current state reopening guidance to their individual situations.

    Come September, experts are recommending children return to school, with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending a series of principles in the reopening effort. 

    Dr. Steven Turkovich of Oishei Children's Hospital says because of what was learned in other countries, schools can open safely. "Schools provide so many benefits from social and emotional interaction, helping children with learning disabilites, food insecurity, checking children for child abuse. We have safety measures and tools to keep children and faculty safe," says Turkovich.

    Turkovich  says each school will have to do things differently. "You've got different space constraints as some may be able to do smaller class sizes and some may not, so that's where masking might come in. Also, maybe not changing classes, keeping children in the classroom and eating lunch there," suggests Turkovich who adds social distancing of adutls will be important as they have the highest risk of contracting COVID19. He also believes mandatory mask use may not be possible for all students. "For high schools, I think it's reasonable, they can tolerate that. Elementary schools, though, the risk may outweigh the benefits because kids are constantly touching their faces and readjusting the mask, which could infect them, or use them sporadically, when social distancing is not easy," says Turkovich.

    "Everything that we do to reopen schools is going to be challenging," says Niagara Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie. "Our goal is to get back to what we thought was normal for kids. We are not intimidated by the guidelines, we're not going to let that stop the best program for kids. So, while it's going to take a lot of work, it's just another challenge as public educators we're up to and we'll handle," says Laurrie. Laurrie recognizes health and safety will be top priority, and he will do his best to meet those needs.

    Laurrie says transportation will be a big challenge. "Keeping the social distancing on a bus is going to be very difficult," notes Laurrie, who adds enforcement is also going to be a challenge.

    "The younger in age children are, the harder it is to enforce specific, didactic guidelines because their reasoning ability is not there with young children," says Laurrie. "We have to keep this away from discipline. We have to start our conversations with public health direction informs us we must. We have to depersonalize the conversation and not say because I say so, instead it's because of public safety" to wear masks and practice social distancing.

    As far as interscholastic sports, it's crunch time on whether decisions on whether fans can attend. "I think pro sports are indicating (toward no fans), it's a precursor with what's going to come with high school athletics," predicts Laurrie. 


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