Coronavirus Update March 10 2020
March 10, 2020
Dear KLSD Families,
As you’re likely aware, just a short while ago Governor Cuomo declared a “containment area” in New Rochelle in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. At the moment, that effort does not impact our schools, but clearly this is an evolving situation and subject to change.
The remainder of this letter is based on guidance we received last night from NYS Departments of Health and Education. That guidance is current, as is all the information below about our schools. I will be posting the entire guidance document on our website and linking to it at the end of this letter. Please note that I am not repeating in this letter all that I’ve written in prior letters. Those letters continue to be available on our website.
Importantly, at this moment, I continue to be unaware of any member of our school community who has tested positive for COVID-19. We are aware of a number of situations in which family members are self-quarantined. Let’s remember that self-quarantine for one member of a family is not indication that other members of the same family must be quarantined, as per the department of health. We continue to appreciate all those families who have reached out to share information about their individual situations with their school principals. It continues to be most important that if children are sick and symptomatic with any communicable illness, they must be kept home.
Two particular excerpts from yesterday’s guidance inform the process of school closing if/when a member of our school community does return a positive test for COVID-19. They are as follows:
“When a student or staff member attended school prior to being confirmed as a COVID-19 case, New York State Department of Health requires an initial 24-hour closure, in order to begin an investigation to determine the contacts that the individual may have had within the school environment. That investigation will inform the plan determined by the local department of health as to any further required closure … During that initial 24-hour closure the school shall immediately take steps to clean and disinfect the school building(s) …
“Schools are not expected to make decisions about closing or canceling events due to COVID-19 on their own.”
County and State officials clearly are mindful of the level of disruption caused by a long term school closing – disruption to families, to work obligations, to learning – and they are working to find the appropriate balance between the importance of keeping children in school and the necessary and appropriate health precautions related to the coronavirus.
Please be assured that in the meantime, we continue cleaning our buildings as described in my prior emails and we continue to be in frequent communication with departments of health and County officials.
I hope the following will address some of your questions:
School work for a student who is self-quarantined at home (assuming schools are still open): In the event that a student is self-quarantined at home for an extended period, the student and/or parent/guardian should be in touch with the student’s teacher, counselor, and/or school principal. Our goal will be to find an appropriate balance between physical health, mental health, and academic preparedness. For now, we are approaching each situation individually and will work with each student/family to provide reasonable supports.
Tryouts and initial practices for Modified, JV, and Varsity sports: Students who are self-quarantined and/or sick will be provided reasonable opportunity to earn a spot on a team roster following their healthy return to school. No student should feel anxious or pressured to return to school because try-outs are occurring. If students or families have individual questions, please reach out to Christian McCarthy, Athletic Director.
Distance Learning/Online Instruction: If you look at the guidance document from New York State, you will notice that it does not address issues related to continuity of instruction. Significant questions remain about how, in the event of an extended closing, the State will manage the required length of the school year and the services we are required to provide our students with special needs, to name just two examples. Nonetheless, rest assured that we are planning thoughtfully with our administrators and teachers for a transition to distance learning, to the extent one is practical in a K-12 environment. I’m very appreciative of the collaborative and thoughtful nature in which this planning has been conducted. In the very near future, you will see a survey asking you about the digital capacity in your home. For those families who don’t have access to a laptop or tablet, we will be able to provide some of our school resources for use at home. We ask that families who already have access at home be mindful that our resources are finite. Please know that we are also looking at non-digital learning options that we can provide to our families.
In the event of a 24 hour shutdown as mandated in the State’s guidance, please understand that our initial priority will be the health and wellbeing of our students and staff, the necessary conversations and determinations with local and state health officials, and the cleaning of our facilities in hopes of a quick reopening. After that first day, if an extended closing is required, we would provide you with additional information about a transition to distance learning opportunities.
I am very much aware that these are trying times. There are far more unknowns than knowns. In that category of unknowns are all your understandable questions about graduation requirements, SAT’s, school plays, concerts, sports, etc. etc. Please be assured that we are working to get answers and will provide them to you just as soon as we can. For the last two weeks, I have been in almost constant communication with my superintendent colleagues throughout the Lower Hudson region. Rest assured that our schools are as well prepared as any for whatever circumstances lie ahead.
We know that some families will choose to make individual decisions that they feel are most appropriate for their unique situations. We understand and respect those decisions and will work with each of our families to the best of our ability.
As parents, let’s remember that the vast majority of children appear to be among the least impacted by the coronavirus. As I walked through schools yesterday and today, I watched our students laughing, learning, and doing all the things they should be doing in school. Let’s help them to feel confident that this current situation will pass and they will be well.
Andrew Selesnick, Superintendent of Schools