Several districts welcome back students amid orange zone

"We're definitely grateful for the opportunity to be back..."

BUFFALO (WBEN) - "We're definitely grateful for the opportunity to be back once more this year," said Williamsville East Class of 2021 President Lucas Romanowski, as several districts within the Erie County orange zone are making a return to partial in-person schooling Monday.

"It's fair to say that a majority of the students and their families are happy to have the children back in school in person," said Hamburg Superintendent Michael Cornell, who added that he's personally thrilled that the day as come. "I think it's also fair to say that there are some families who have some reluctance."

Cornell said the district will have to test roughly 720 students a month, which works out to about 170 or 180 tests per week, in order to meet the state's revised testing mandates of districts that are open within an orange zone. Students will be called down throughout the day on an already established schedule.

"We'll give families and staff who are going to be tested 24 hours notice prior to the day of their testing," said Cornell. "We have certified nurses who are coming in to conduct the testing, and we'll notify anyone who tests positive within 15 minutes, and we have every expectation that this process will be a value add."

On Friday, Governor Cuomo held a press conference and said that districts should look to reopening their buildings because the data suggests students are safer in schools than their surrounding community.

"If they focus on some of the macro data around infections, that might give a family reason for concern," said Cornell. "But if one focuses on comments made by public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Gale Burstein, the consensus of public health officials and our own experience in schools here in Western New York and certainly our experience in Hamburg, will tell you that schools are safe."

Romanowski said he does feel safe to return to an in-person setting, and although his senior year has been a sort of roller coaster, he doesn't feel like he's been robbed of anything.

"I don't know if being robbed is the right way to put it - I think it was just the circumstances that we were presented with, and we just have to try to make the most of it," he said.