HARRISON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The New York State Health Department could soon release new guidelines for reopening schools.
School officials across the state are eagerly awaiting the new safety requirements, but some administrators are taking action and making investments to get as many students back in the classroom as soon as possible.READ MORE: Bloomfield High School Senior David Odekunle, Who Grew Up In Nigeria, Receives Acceptance Letters From 7 Ivy Leagues Schools: 'It's Like A Once-In-A-Lifetime Feeling'
While hybrid now, all kindergarten through fifth grade students in the Harrison, New York, school district will be back in school full time in less than three weeks, with middle and high schoolers expected to return after spring break in April.
Many parents can’t wait.
“I feel that the kids need to be back, so whatever they gotta do,” one parent told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
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Some schools can’t bring everyone back full time because they lack the space to meet state guidelines requiring six feet between desks.
The state health department is considering three-foot spacing, with plastic barriers.READ MORE: Bronx High School Students Partner With DOT To Improve Local Street Safety
But Harrison Schools Superintendent Dr. Louis Wool says students struggle to hear with the barriers and they interfere with ventilation.
“What if we purchase face shields for every student? They solve a lot of problems for us because they’re transportable, the kids can take them with them and they can keep them clean,” Wool said.
They’re also more affordable. Barriers cost schools anywhere from $20 to $45 dollars a piece, while face shields are about $5.
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin from Scarsdale seconds the call for three-foot spacing without barriers to address issues of equity in disadvantaged communities.
“Where you want the kids even more so to be able to go back to school because of the disadvantages that they have inherently. They are the districts that can’t because they can’t afford to buy the physical barriers, so you’re creating a tale of two cities,” Paulin said.
Wool went ahead and bought 5,000 barriers for his entire school district. He’s hoping he won’t need them and the state will allow students to use face shields instead.
Wool says with about 70% of his teachers vaccinate, and a plan to randomly test 10% of the school weekly, he feels with masks, it’s safe to scale back social distancing and bring all 3,600 students in his district back full time.MORE NEWS: Advocates Sign Letter To Mayor De Blasio Demanding More Preschool Seats For Special Needs Students
CBS2 reached out to state health department officials to see if it planned to revise school social distancing guidelines, but they have not yet responded.