Dear Pelham Community,
The Pelham Public Schools need flexibility and resources as we continue to navigate the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, we are asking for your advocacy with state and county officials on behalf of our children. Specifically, we are asking you to contact Governor Cuomo and request that the Department of Health update its guidance for schools and expand access to COVID-19 testing for schools. Additionally, we are asking that you directly contact Westchester County Executive George Latimer and urge the County to set up dedicated pop-up vaccination sites for teachers/education workers. Advancing these goals will help ensure that as many students as possible can return to in-person learning in a safe, secure and timely manner.
Below, you will find two suggested letters, one directed toward Governor Cuomo and another directed toward County Executive Latimer, detailing why these initiatives are vital for our schools. We ask that you read these letters, and then copy and paste them into the respective contact forms for Governor Cuomo and County Executive Latimer. Feel free to add any additional comments or edits you wish to make along with each original letter.
Letter to Governor Cuomo
To: The Honorable Governor Andrew M. Cuomo,
Last March, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down, creating massive disruption especially in the area of education. We recognize that the pandemic is still posing challenges to all facets of life, including education, but the roll-out of effective vaccines and the impending warmer weather of spring give us hope that schools in our region can soon take the next step of bringing even more students back to in-person learning safely. As a concerned citizen of Pelham, NY, I urge you to consider the initiatives outlined below, which will provide our school district and others across the state much-needed flexibility and resources to more fully deliver on our educational mission following nearly a year of remote/hybrid learning.
Update Department of Health Guidance for Schools
The New York State Department of Health (DOH) released guidance to schools in August 2020. Our district has sought to implement the DOH recommendations to the best of its ability and we have largely been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 among our students and staff. Therefore, we strongly encourage the DOH to review its guidance in light of the increased availability of vaccines for educators and data that indicate schools have not been a major source for COVID-19 spread.
In particular, we ask that the DOH review its guidance recommending 6-feet distancing between students in the classroom. The American Academy of Pediatrics released its own guidance indicating that 3-foot distancing could be considered in schools. This change alone would be game-changing for our district as our schools are constrained by below-average sized classrooms and have little ability to bring more students into the building at this time under the 6-feet distancing recommendation. We believe the time has come for the DOH to review and update its recommendations, and consider changes that strengthen districts’ ability to return to full in-person instruction if it can be done safely.
Expand Access to Test Kits for Surveillance Testing
School districts must have increased access to COVID-19 test kits to facilitate the safe implementation of the state’s decision to resume high risk sports. In addition, school districts in our region are trying to bring additional students back into the classroom for in-person instruction. Therefore, it is critical that the state increase its capacity to meet the testing demand. Doing so would allow districts to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 among students and staff, and proactively detect a rise in infections among the school population. This would make schools safer for students and staff, and allow districts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 before a larger outbreak occurs, thus minimizing disruptions in student learning.
We appreciate your time and consideration of these initiatives. They are critical to ensuring our students have the fullest access possible to the education that they deserve.
Letter to County Executive Latimer
To: The Honorable George Latimer, Westchester County Executive,
I want to thank you for your leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and your steadfast commitment to getting as many eligible Westchester County residents vaccinated as possible.
As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an outsized and detrimental impact on our schools. Our educators have done an incredible job of teaching our children to the best of their ability during these challenging times, risking their health and the health of their families each day. With vaccine availability and inoculations on the rise, it is critical that we prioritize teachers/education workers so that they can be fully vaccinated as quickly as possible. Doing so is key to permitting even more of our children to return to in-person learning and providing them the education they deserve.
I urge you to create dedicated pop-up vaccination sites for teachers/education workers as quickly as possible across the County. Leaders from our district have stated they would be more than willing to host one of these sites. With your Office’s support, this initiative would signal a major step in the right direction and create both an immediate and positive impact within our communities. At the very least, dedicated vaccine appointments should be made available at one of the County-operated sites to avoid situations where teachers/education workers inadvertently compete with other eligible county residents for access. The quicker our teachers/education workers can get vaccinated, the sooner our children can get back in the classroom.
We hope you will strongly consider supporting this and any other innovative initiatives that lead to widespread and full vaccination of our teachers/education workers. As always, our community stands ready to help in any way possible.