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Fall’s Big Question

Reed Talks Reopening Of Schools In State

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, on Wednesday discussed his hopes that in-person instruction can resume in local schools this fall. “I really do believe the positive of having our children back in school should be the priority and should be the preference,” he said. P-J file photos

As some public schools reopen across the nation, coronavirus infection cases with students remain a growing concern.

Recent infections by youth in Mississippi, Indiana and Georgia have made national headlines as districts in New York state continue to wait for a decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, weighed in on the issue during a conference call with area media on Wednesday afternoon. He again expressed his hopes that in-person learning takes place.

“The presumption should be to have children go back to the school setting, but obviously you have to do that safely and you have to do it in a healthy environment,” he said. “I defer to the local school districts … as to what their needs are and to making sure they have access to PPE and other issues.”

Reed said he has been in contact with a number of schools across the 23rd Congressional District. Last week, schools were required to submit plans to the state on how they will reopen this September. Most districts are leaning toward a hybrid plan — some courses online, some in person.

Last month, Gowanda school board member David Barnes expressed his desires for students to return to the in-person model. “Remote learning does not work,” Barnes said during the meeting. “You’re creating a whole section of kids that are just never going to get an education.”

Reed fully agrees with that position, but remains cautious. “I really do believe the positive of having our children back in school should be the priority and should be the preference,” he said. “That being said, you have to recognize the virus and you have to have a healthy respect for it. If they can’t do it safely, I think we would all agree that going back to school in that environment is not appropriate.”

Reed also noted that he hopes Cuomo makes a decision before Friday regarding reopenings. He said he is hearing from some administrators about testing requirements that may be considered.

“The governor has to make this decision sooner rather than later because if there’s going to be additional requirements … you have to give a window of opportunity for these school officials … an opportunity to prepare and respond,” Reed said.

Reed, who is seeking re-election this November, is being challenged by Democrat Tracy Mitrano. Early last month, Mitrano in a press release warned about sending children back to districts too soon. She believes the issue needs to be based on public health.

“We have seen nationally that the more politics are played, the worst the epidemic becomes,” Mitrano said. “First responders and people in essential services are suffering the most from the failure to have an appropriate schedule and policy and protocols for addressing this pandemic.”

Reopening schools too soon would add students, teachers, staff and their families to the list of at-risk populations, Mitrano said. “The main focus has to be on public health. Politics only makes it worse.”

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