It's been more than two years since COVID-19 began to spread across the world, disrupting everyone's daily lives. One area that was greatly impacted was schools and learning. But there are signs that we're slowly returning back to normal. New COVID guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could arrive in the coming week.
According to reports, the CDC is expected to ease quarantines for people exposed to the virus, de-emphasize six feet social distancing and also ease regular COVID testing in schools. The health organization is also considering removing "test to stay." While these changes aren't final and are still being discussed by the CDC, some school officials said on Monday that the easing of the guidelines would be beneficial for students.
"Schools are the hub of a community, particularly in a place like Hamburg,” Hamburg Central School District Superintendent Michael Cornell said. “So getting back to that, the core work of school without the encumbrance, without COVID-related restrictions and requirements is really absolutely necessary.”
School officials say there were minimal restrictions for COVID-19 when the school year ended in June. Some superintendents are hoping for guidance to remain that way this coming school year.
"Where else in society are you seeing restrictions or requirements related to COVID?” Cornell asked. “Almost nowhere. So if we're not going to have restrictions or requirements in society, why would we do it in schools?"
"I think it's time that we remember to use common sense,” Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie said. “That if you're not feeling well, you stay home and call your primary care physician. If you do come down with COVID, that you report it and that we make test kits widely available.”
Superintendents say the pandemic has been very difficult for students and they believe it's time to get back to normal learning.
"Parts of school were stripped out,” Cornell said. “We missed out on sports and clubs and plays and concerts for a long time, and at the end of last year we were really able to get back to that, bring the community back into the schools, and that was sorely missed.”
Laurrie says the pandemic has caused a worrisome mental health crisis.
"To have more restrictions, mandates, I think starts to play into not thinking about mental health, and if we've learned anything this pandemic, COVID has really wrecked havoc on the mental health of adults and students," Laurrie said.
Again, the CDC is still deliberating the easing up of guidelines.
In a press conference at the end of July, Gov. Kathy Hochul said over three million test kits are being distributed to school districts so students can test before the first day of school. She also said masking is not mandatory but said she reserves the right to return to that policy if the numbers or severity of the illness change.