HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM) — New York school districts are eagerly waiting for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision as to whether or not schools will reopen for in-person learning in the fall. If schools are approved to reopen, there are concerns surrounding the safety of children taking the bus.
“We are waiting on the governor, himself, who is the only decision maker in New York,” said Dr. Thomas Douglas, Superintendent for the Horseheads Central School District.
On July 31, school districts had to submit reopening plans to the state for review and approval.
School districts have three options: reopen 100% for in-person learning, hybrid reopening of 50/50, or continue remote and online learning. If classes reopen for in-person instruction, the Horseheads Central School District is prepared for the transportation problem.
“We will make sure that we meet the New York State guidance on social distancing, mask wearing and safety on our transportation for the students,” Douglas said.
Douglas tells 18 News wearing a mask will not be optional for students.
“It’s not an option of whether or not they will or will not wear that mask,” Douglas said. “If they will not wear that mask we will be required to transport them. They will have to be fully socially distanced which might mean we’ll have to cut down on who will be on that bus for that day. We are hoping our community will never put us in that situation or the children.”
Each school bus will hold around seven students—in addition to the bus driver—if social distancing is enforced. A mask will not be required to be worn in that situation. Many districts will not implement this solution due to the shortage in both staffing and buses.
“We will not being doing that,” Douglas said. “In our district, we will require masks on the bus so we can bring it down to roughly 3 feet or a comfortable distance, but that’s about two individual students distant apart in each seat.”
Students who live in the same home will be asked to sit together in the same seat. This will allow for more space for another students.
According to a state mandate, students must be temperature screened before entering the school. The Horseheads Central School District is planning a way to have temperature checks before students board the bus. The district is also requiring buses to be thoroughly cleaned.
“Overnight, we will be cleaning our buses and in between routes,” said Douglas. “Our maintenance supervisor, our mechanic supervisor, our Director of Transportation and Director of Facilities will coordinate that to make sure all the buses are sufficiently cleaned according to state protocols.”
As the clock is counting down before the first day of school, on Aug. 3, Gov. Cuomo said he would not be announcing a decision until later in the week. Many districts are getting frustrated—including Horseheads.
“We are not sheep, we are not followers, we are leaders,” Douglas said. “We are doing the impossible in a very short time—when we were promised over two months of time—but still we don’t let that stand in our way because our job is to take care our community and students and that’s what we do.”
18 News will continue to give you the latest on school reopenings.