Plattsburgh school reopening plan gets pushback from parents

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York public schools are free to reopen this fall. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state’s success in battling the pandemic means it is safe for schools to offer at least some days of in-person classes. In Plattsburgh, the city school district is going with a full in-person model. But the plan is getting pushback from some parents. Our Kelly O’Brien explains.

“I don’t feel safe at all having my kids in a classroom,” said Shelise Marbut, a parent.

Some parents with kids in the Plattsburgh City School District are unhappy with the school’s plan to reopen

“I have two principal concerns over the plan. Number one, the lack of community voice and representation in the development of the plan, and as a direct result of that, the lack of options between educational methods moving forward,” Marbut said.

The plan, a 62-page document put together by District Superintendent Jay LeBrun and 25 faculty members, outlines health and safety precautions for the upcoming school year.

LeBrun, who was unavailable for an interview, wrote in the plan’s overview that the school has three plans: one for in-person, one for hybrid learning and one for remote.

In the overview, he says the entire district will follow the in-person, five-day-a-week plan unless told otherwise by the state or a student has a doctor’s note that says in-person instruction is not an option.

LeBrun writes that when making the reopening plan, parent choice was considered but deemed unfavorable. The reason being it would be tough to make sure all students are getting the same quality education on the different platforms.

Students are concerned over the plans, too. Mirren Guzzio is an incoming senior. She has asthma so she can’t be in class.

She started an online petition to make some changes to the current plan like mask-wearing at all times rather than when you can’t socially distance and to let parents and students choose which plan works best for them.

“The thing about allowing kids to opt out no matter if they have something like asthma or not is that it would free up space in the actual school building for social distancing,” Guzzio said.

Back to Marbut, she says she hopes the board and district will consider what she and other parents’ thoughts are on the plan, otherwise, she plans to homeschool her kids.

In an email, LeBrun said the plans are only a draft and subject to change before school starts.

“The district’s reopening plan, submitted to the State Education Department last week, is a draft. Some districts have yet to even submit theirs. As such, all aspects are subject to change.

“We’ve received some concern about mask-wearing expectations in school, but I suspect that these concerns will be alleviated. The District’s reopening plan reflected and affirmed the mask standard featured in the State Education Department guidance. Protocols for COVID-related student expectations (mask wearing, movement through the building, acceptable recess activity, etc.) are still being finalized, and will be available for students and parents soon.

“The primary area of parent concern has surely been the absence of a parent option for remote instruction. The Governor, the State Education Department, and the State Department of Health have all declared that a return to in-person instruction is safe. Periods of closure create isolation which is detrimental to students. These deficits are best addressed through in-person instruction and support from Teachers. Notwithstanding medical-necessity, allowing some families to opt-out of the in-person instruction which State officials have declared to be safe would be contrary to students’ best interests. The Governor has recently made comments which suggest that he may mandate a parent option for remote instruction, thereby changing his previous declaration that a return to school is safe and that in-person instruction should proceed if regional infection rates are below 5%, and until these rates exceed 9%. Our district will, of course, comply with any such mandate. The district’s planning committee may also revisit this topic and amend the draft reopening plan, but we will first wait to learn what the Governor announces during tomorrow’s promised announcement.”

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