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School Districts Plan For Cloudy Future As COVID Cases Rise

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- There was a holiday sendoff for students in Mount Vernon, one of the first districts in New York to announce all-remote instruction after the end-of-year break.

Students won't be back in person until at least Jan. 18.

"I want to go back in person," one student told CBS2's Tony Aiello.

"You like in person?" Aiello asked.

"Yeah, because I see my friends there," the student said.

Dr. Kenneth Hamilton runs the district with 8,000 students.

"We have over 110 active cases right now and they're just increasing day after day," Hamilton said. "We decided that this was the most prudent approach and to try to stop the infection at least in our schools as much as possible."

Educators say local concerns drive the decision in each district. Short of a state mandate or a COVID-related staffing crunch, White Plains schools will remain open.


"If schools close again, that is an economic catastrophe, it's a sociological catastrophe. We don't want to be going back in that direction," said White Plains Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca.

Many districts require COVID testing for students to stay in class. Ricca says long lines at testing sites are inexcusable.

"What are you hearing from superintendents about the need for easier access to testing?" Aiello asked.

"We need tests to be able to 'test to stay.' So I'm glad the state of New York is putting resources behind testing," Ricca said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday 10 million at home tests will be distributed and more testing sites will open.

The Cuomo administration closed the main testing site in Westchester -- at Glen Island Park -- last June, citing an 88% drop in demand.

"We kinda, shoulda predicted that between the months of November and March, we were gonna need a lot of tests," Ricca said.

The need is now, and there's a scramble on numerous fronts to help schools stay open in the new year.

The Mount Vernon superintendent said teachers strongly supported his decision to go remote. He warned parents right after Thanksgiving the move was likely, given the impact of the Omicron variant.

Another related note: New York state is also cancelling high school Regents exams in January.

The DOE commissioner says the exams cannot be safely and fairly administered with COVID on the rise. She has asked the Board of Regents to look into alternative requirements for high school graduation.

In New Jersey, several schools are switching to remote learning through the rest of the week.

The list now includes the Montclair School District, Carteret, Plainfield and South Orange Middle School. Hunterdon is doing early dismissal Wednesday, and Thursday's schedule is still undetermined.

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