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Local health departments can now determine spacing of students’ desks at school

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
A fourth grade class at Dr. Weeks Elementary School in Syracuse.

Local health departments in New York state now have the discretion to determine how much space should separate children’s desks at school. That could mean a move towards more in-person learning.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said district officials are telling him that readjusting how close desks can be, could mean more days in schools for students.

"If you change the six-foot rule and it was only three feet with distancing, or four feet, we could bring back more in-person learning, because of the physical space,” McMahon said. 

McMahon also noted that some districts in the county are very close to vaccinating all their staff against the coronavirus, which could build more confidence about the safety of schools. McMahon said county Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta will ultimately make the decision about desk spacing, after reviewing the data about how the virus is spread in schools.

"I do believe in in-person learning, but we’re going to let the data drive the decision and not the politician drive the decision,” McMahon said.

He said there will be lots of school-based testing of kids next week as they return from February break. There are concerns people returning from warm weather states like Florida, could bring the virus back to central New York.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.