More than a year after the pandemic upended the education of countless American school children, Warrensburg Superintendent John Goralski says students participating in distance learning are continuing to lose vital time in the classroom.

“Students become disconnected from school and when they are disconnected from school, their performance level declines precipitously,” Goralski said Wednesday afternoon. “What we need to do is have students here so they are engaged.”

Hoping to see all of his students back in the building sooner than later, Goralski was one of more than 90 Capital Region superintendents to sign a letter to elected leaders and other state officials this week, urging them to ease certain restrictions and provide more clarity about next school year’s policies.

What You Need To Know

  • More than 90 school district superintendents from across the Capital Region have signed a letter to state leaders urging them to relax certain guidelines that are preventing children from being in the classroom full-time

  • The school leaders would like to see an end to cohorting and for social distancing rules to be relaxed on buses and in cafeterias

  • John Goralski, head of the Warrensburg Central School District, says students are becoming more disengaged when they’re out of the classroom

“In order for us to plan for what school is going to look like in the fall, we need to know, are we going to be required to have remote learning, are we going to be required to have some type of a hybrid model, or can we have all of the students back full-time,” he said.

The district administrators are hoping to see social distancing guidelines relaxed on buses and in cafeterias. They also believe splitting students up into cohorts has been robbing them of educational opportunities.

“By cohorting, we would have to keep all of the students in the same group all day long so we wouldn’t be individualizing their programs and they wouldn’t have the tools they need for post-secondary careers,” Goralski said.

With the FDA poised to expand vaccine eligibility to most middle school-aged students, Goralski believes it’s safer than it has been in over a year to return to the classroom.

“The more folks that get vaccinated, the less transmission there is and the easier it will be for us to get back to in-person learning,” he said. “But it is a personal decision each family has to make, and I, personally, don’t think it is the school’s position to advocate one way or another.”

A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health released a written statement Wednesday, highlighting the fact that policies were recently updated.

“New York State recently instituted updated guidance for schools, which is consistent with CDC guidance and is based on the most up-to-date science and information available,” the statement read. “We will continue to evaluate information as it becomes available and as vaccination and community transmission rates change.”

Goralski is hopeful local school communities will be given more freedom to make their own decisions.

“If we can just get that type of flexibility, we can get our kids back to school and that’s what everybody wants,” Goralski said.