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At least 2 CNY schools/districts will bring all pre-K- 12th grade students back into classrooms

Most school districts across Central New York and the state are moving toward a mix of teaching students at home and in class this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many district officials say they would like to bring everyone back into the schools but they don’t have the space or staff to accommodate social distancing. In Central New York, at least one public school district — Jordan-Elbridge — and a private school — Manlius Pebble Hill — plan to bring all students back into the classrooms this fall.

Districts have until Friday to submit their reopening plans to the state Education Department, and post them on their websites. But for many, the desire to bring everybody back just isn’t possible.

Jordan-Elbridge School Superintendent James Froio said his district plans to bring everyone from prekindergarten to 12th grade back into the schools. The details of how it will work haven’t been released yet, but Froio said it’s doable in his schools.

The district has about 1,300 students, and there is enough space in the buildings to spread out students six feet apart, he said.

“I’m happy we can do this, because I think middle and high school students need in-person instruction as much as younger children,‘’ he said.

Manlius Pebble Hill School, a small, private prekindergarten through 12th grade school in DeWitt, will offer in-person instruction for everyone, said Dave McCusker, head of school. With about 320 students, there is enough space in the buildings to spread students out six feet apart, he said.

The rooms are large enough to hold 14 to 16 students in each class, he said.

The school will require everyone to wear masks — staff and students. The youngest children — 4 and 5-year-olds — will wear masks and hats with transparent plastic covering that resemble welders’ hats. Staff working with them also will have to wear shields.

Lunches will be outside or in the classroom, and recess and gym will be outdoors whenever possible, he said.

McCusker said there been an uptick in interest in MPH since the coronavirus pandemic, and some grades are tight, such as fourth and fifth grade. The school does offer financial aid to almost half of its students. Annual tuition ranges between $9,500 for lower grades to more than $24,000 for the upper grades.

Some of the bigger districts – Syracuse, Liverpool, Jamesville-DeWitt and Fayetteville-Manlius – have draft hybrid reopening plans with students dividing time in class and at home.

Many smaller school districts in the Onondaga County haven’t yet announced their plans, but many say the social distancing requirements make it difficult to open up to everyone. At Fabius-Pompey, Superintendent Tim Ryan says officials are still figuring out their staffing and available space.

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