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Erie County health officials to release guidance on schools K-12, parents push for more remote learning options


BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — In a few weeks students across Western New York will head back to school, but with growing concerns of the Delta Variant, parents are wondering what this could mean for in-person learning.

Samuel Radford III, who’s a member of the NY Equity Coalition, is advocating for students in the Buffalo Public School District to learn from home if they want to.

“Most students learn better 5-day in-person instruction, so we’re not against that,” he said. “We’re just simply saying, all students are not monolith. All students don’t learn the same way.”

School districts across Western New York are providing remote learning to students who have a doctor’s note indicating they can’t be in school five days a week.

Radford says a doctor’s note shouldn’t be necessary.

“I actually think it’s not just important to offer a remote option as part of the educational platform, I think it’s a responsible thing to do,” Radford III said. “After you learned that some students did better in remote instruction and after you realize that something like that Delta Variant, that at any moment you might have to go back to remote instruction, why not based on your experience, build that into the platform?”

Buffalo Public School Board Member Larry Scott says while there are concerns over infection rates in Erie County, it’s not as much as last year.

“I’m not getting emails or phone calls from parents like I was last August,” he said. “Every day my inbox was blowing up with parents with concerns. Some wanting their kids to return, some demanding that they stay full remote and that has not been the case entering this school year.”

Scott says the district is calming concerns by having a mask mandate.

“The transmission of this Delta Variant is obviously very concerning with what we’re seeing at children across the country and that is why we are requiring that all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status start the school year with masks,” he said.

In Niagara County, Niagara Falls School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie says he thinks it’s unlikely the district will have to switch over to a remote learning option, but that they’re going to pay attention to the county’s case numbers just in case that changes.

“Make sure everyone’s internet is up and running, make sure we start teaching our technology platform right away in the event that something were to go and we’d have to go back to remote learning,” he said. “We hope that’s not the case but I think we would be not prepared.”

The Erie County Health Department is expected to release its pre-k to 12 guidance for the upcoming school year Monday morning. This will include the health and safety guidelines for public, private and charter schools in the county.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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