Dear Rye Community,
Since September, we have seen a steady increase in COVID-19 positivity rates in Rye, the surrounding communities, New York State, and the country. We recognize and appreciate the Governor and Legislature for all of their efforts to help contain the spread of the virus over these many months. Recently, the NY Department of Health and Governor Cuomo implemented a cluster zone strategy that identifies areas with rising positivity rates and restricts activities to help slow the spread. While we wholeheartedly agree that safety measures are needed, aspects of this new strategy severely impact our ability to keep schools open.
With increasing infection rates, Westchester County could be declared a “yellow zone” as early as this coming week. Currently, our neighbors in Port Chester schools are closed until further notice because of this designation and its requirements for schools to perform COVID testing. If the county or Rye is declared a “yellow zone,” schools must close unless we meet the following conditions:
Schools must test 20% of in-person students, faculty and staff over the two-week period immediately following the announcement of a yellow zone designation. If the results of the testing reveal that the positivity rate among those tested is lower than the yellow zone’s current 7-day positivity rate, testing at that school will no longer be required to continue.
If Rye were to be identified as a yellow zone, we would need to administer 700 mandatory tests in two weeks. Depending upon the results we may then need to continue testing 700 school community members bi-weekly. There is no school district in Westchester or our neighboring counties currently able to meet this mandate. The logistics of this requirement are massive and the cost of implementation is prohibitive. Forcing our students to return to remote learning because our state government is unable to appropriately fund our local department of health to monitor community-wide spread and to support school districts with the mandatory testing requirements undervalues and undermines education.
As a Board of Education, we are committed to working with the administration to prioritize students and keep our in-person instruction in place. The Board of Education is working with surrounding school districts as well as our county school board organization (WPSBA) to advocate for immediate assistance with funding and infrastructure to meet these additional requirements.
We know that hearing directly from community members is a powerful force and we need your help to engage our local and state legislators. When Governor Cuomo began talking about reopening schools, he said that he was going to listen to parents and that flexibility was key. We need him to hear what our parents have to say: the lack of funding and testing support is detrimental to our district and will inevitably lead to long-term challenges for both our district and our students.
Below is an email that you can use to send to our local and state legislators letting them know how this decision impacts our students. Please copy the message and use the emails provided to send your message. It should only take a few minutes and will send this critically important message to our representatives.
Time is of the essence; we all share the objective of making sure children in all communities across New York State remain in school, continue to grow academically, and flourish socially and emotionally.
Thank you for all of your collaboration and support.
The Rye City School District Board of Education
Dr. Eric Byrne, Superintendent of Schools
I appreciate the Governor and the Legislature for their ongoing effort to contain the coronavirus, including the Governor’s new cluster zone strategy for testing in communities with rising infection rates.
As a parent in the Rye City School District, I believe testing is beneficial to keep our schools open, but requires state funding and state coordination to allow our district to be in compliance with the state regulations.
To keep our schools open and implement mandated testing, we need your help in ensuring that either school districts have the necessary funding to test and analyze results or provide the necessary resources to the Westchester County Department of Health to partner with school districts to meet the mandated requirements.
Once again, we applaud your leadership and efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in our community. However, our schools and our children need your immediate action. Please provide the funding and resources necessary for our school district to remain open and implement safe, reliable, and timely testing in our schools.
Thank you for your attention to this time-sensitive matter that could result in the imminent and unintended closure of our public schools.
Your City, State, Zip
Your Phone Number
Governor Andrew Cuomo – firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Otis – OtisS@nyassembly.gov
Shelley Mayer- email@example.com
County Executive George Latimer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Regents Fran Willis – Regent.Wills@nysed.gov