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Answering your frequently asked questions about Erie County's school reopening guidelines

On Monday, Erie County released reopening guidance for schools, and 2 On Your Side is working to answer your questions.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — Erie County released its school reopening guidance on Monday, sparking many questions from the community.

2 On Your Side has been doing its best to answer your questions on masking, quarantining and school sports.

This is guidance, so schools can choose whether or not to follow the guidance? 

There still is a State of Emergency declaration in Erie County and county officials believe they can issue the guidance by the powers of the Erie County Health Commissioner.

"As a parent and a community health worker, we just want to make sure everybody is healthy and safe and supported we're dealing with unprecedented times we certainly want our children to be back in school," said Jessica Bauer Walker, the executive director of the Community Health Worker Network.

Can schools offer remote learning to kids who want it?

Public health officials and school leaders have consistently said that in-person learning is the way to go. However, according to guidance from the state Education Department, in case of school closures due to a declared public health emergency, schools must be prepared to provide remote instruction.

Also, there are schools that are offering remote learning to those who have underlying health issues. It's best to check with your school to see what they're offering. 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said schools would have the discretion on remote learning and work with the county on that. Although, Poloncarz said virtual learning centers have not been set up yet. 

"Protocols have been put in place for COVID, but we're concerned about things like nutrition, mental health, physical activity, health education so those are all pieces from our perspective as parents and community health workers that really need to be considered," said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. 

How will students in quarantine receive instruction?

According to Michael Cornell, the superintendent of Hamburg Schools and the president of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association, schools will offer a variety of options -- remote learning, use of the school online portal, or perhaps, through learning materials in paper form.

Why is there a recommendation for masking outdoors?

Although the spread of COVID-19 is less likely outdoors, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says there have been cases of COVID spread outdoors even with people who are fully vaccinated. 

This is a recommendation and not a mandate.

Will student athletes have to wear masks during practice or games?

Athletes will have to wear their masks when they are not actively participating in game play or exercise.

There are different quarantine guidelines for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated athletes if there is a positive case on the team. 

Is Erie County going to make it mandatory for all educators be vaccinated? 

For now, the guidance says that vaccination is, "strongly recommended for all eligible students and staff." Fully vaccinated students and staff will not have to follow the same quarantine rules as the unvaccinated in if a positive case occurs.