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CNY parents and students push for return to five days of in-person schooling

Payne Horning
Parents and students from the Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District protest administration's decision to continue hybrid learning.

As COVID-19 cases decrease and vaccinations increase in the area, some central New York parents are pushing schools to return to in-person learning five days a week. A group of parents and their children from the Jamesville-Dewitt Central School District gathered outside Wednesday night to protest a recent decision from administration to its hybrid model of learning, which will mean a continuation of three days of online school a week for sixth grader Atlee Costello.

"From 8-2:45, we're in like real school staring at the screens for hours and hours," Costello said. "My head hurts at the end of the day all of the time."

Jamesville-Dewitt Superintendent Peter Smith said their hands are tied until the state changes its guidance for maintaining at least six-feet between each desk - there's not enough space to bring back students in person and keep that required social distancing. But Atlee's mother Emily said there's room for dialogue.

"How do we know that everyone wants to go back? Maybe the children who want to go back would be able to be far enough apart, we don't know until we find that out," Costello said. "I think that's also what we're asking for - we just want some involvement. There's literally been no involvement for parents since last summer."

Another parent at the protest Kara Sawyer said it doesn't have to be one or the other.

"If the whole point is to prevent the spread, if you've got a physical barrier and masks, you could absolutely do 3 feet," Sawyer said. "It's all in the interpretation. Other schools are doing it - Catholic schools are doing it, private schools are doing it - it's crazy these public schools are hiding behind that 6-foot rule."

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said the county health commissioner is more comfortable with 6-foot distancing between desks, but they are looking at suggestions from some school districts to reduce that to 3 feet so that more students can return to in-person learning five days a week again.

"We know our kids are hurting, we know that they are having challenges, it's been a tough year for the adults as well," McMahon said. "We know that they're not learning as well remotely, so the faster we can get kids back to in-person learning the better."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.