Syracuse teachers union has concerns about increasing in-person learning and on more days

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Syracuse Teachers Association is raising concerns about how Onondaga County’s largest district might bring back more students into classrooms on more days of the week.

On Thursday, the County Health Commissioner, along with the County Executive, announced new guidance for school districts aimed at more in-person learning for districts. The biggest move is to reduce the distance between students in classrooms from six feet to three feet, provided they have physical barriers around their desks.

The Syracuse City School District is reviewing plans to use this new guidance to offer more in-person learning for students and parents.

“We do need the kids back. We know they do best in person. We want them back so that they can get that, it’s not just about the instruction alone, but the social-emotional aspects of meeting your teacher, engaging, establishing that rapport, interacting with your peers,” says Syracuse Teachers Association President Bill Scott.

The teachers union has been holding forums and conducting surveys this week about a more robust in-person learning plan. Scott says it’s raised a number of concerns.

While the new guidance reduces the distance between students, it maintains the six-foot distance between students and teachers.

“Anybody that’s ever worked in public education knows that’s not a feasible proposal. That teachers, teaching assistants, social workers, guidance counselors, maintaining six feet from students is not really something that’s practical to do,” Scott tells NewsChannel 9.

He says another concern is over how the district plans to safely transport kids to and from school, especially with the district considering putting two kids per seat.

Scott adds there is also concern about the cafeterias, “The proposal right now is to use those partitions or barriers and space students three feet apart. But in that scenario, you’re asking students who are desperate for social interaction to sit in assigned seats, not get up and walk about the cafeteria. And that’s in violation of current guidance that’s issued to restaurants at this time.”

The school district was expecting to close a parents survey Friday evening, but was considering extending it through the weekend to get as many responses as possible.

Click here to access that parent survey.

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