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Some Vestal parents want students back 5 days a week, move toward legal action

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VESTAL (WBNG) -- This week, many students in the Vestal School District find themselves remote due to transportation issues, at the same time parents are growing increasingly frustrated with the district for not bringing students back into the classroom five days a week.

Many hybrid students are now attending in person classes two days a week, while the district is working toward accommodating four.

When it comes to online learning, many parents in the district have had enough all together.

"You have mom as mom and you have mom as teacher, and it becomes a very difficult dynamic," said Vestal parent Jennifer Gilmore.

Fellow parent Dina Kalina said other schools have moved on to planning for kids to come back in person five days a week, but not Vestal. Parents have been pressing the district for information on their decision making process since the fall, to no avail.

"Since September, our three biggest questions are what is the timeline, what are the metrics being used to get kids back in and who is making those decisions?" she said.

This comes as parents say students continue to struggle with online learning.

Dave Drew says his youngest son has special needs and he was placed in a private school, while his older son stayed in Vestal Schools.

"As I watched him, he was the light bulb kid, he's absolutely infectious. To watch that disappear over about a month and a half or two months forced us to pull him out and put him in a private school as well," he said.

Several parents have banded together and gotten a lawyer, intent on seeking legal action if the plan doesn't change.

Attorney Carl Schwartz is handling the legal side of things, and says the lawsuit will not be focused on money, but forcing action.

"Our goal is to force them to get our kids back in school, period, end of discussion. We're not after money, it's not for damages,"

For their part, the district says they are working on bringing more students back into the classroom. They released a statement Monday announcing a move to begin transitioning elementary age students in person four days a week.

We feel our school community is ready and able to support this, and the science is at the point where this commitment can be made," it reads. "In order to help us plan for this transition, a parent questionnaire was sent out to elementary parents in the District, with results due on March 2. Analysis of the feedback from our elementary families will take place on Wednesday, March 3, and then we can begin formulating a plan to implement four-day/week instruction for elementary students. Vestal Middle and High Schools will send similar questionnaires to their families at a later date."

Parents say the push will continue, with Drew saying that the district should have been discussing a four day in person schedule months ago. Now is the time to be discussing five days, he says.

Gilmore, who is not involving her family in any potential lawsuit, stresses that their frustrations are not directed at teachers or administrators at any particular school. Emphasizing that the administration has the power to make the next move.

"We're begging to send our kids back to these teachers, we love these teachers we want our kids back with them 40 hours a week," she said.

We reached out to the superintendent of the Vestal Central School District for an interview, he was unavailable Monday but agreed to sit down with us in the near future.

Jack Arpey

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