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New Restrictions Announced by Gov. Cuomo for Clarkstown Schools

Dear Clarkstown Parents, Guardians and Staff, 

In a press conference today, Governor Cuomo announced updates to his Cluster Initiative based on the rising infection rate for COVID-19 and the upcoming holiday season. I was surprised, confused, and disappointed to learn this news via a story in the Journal News instead of a direct communication from the Governor's Office, the State Department of Health or the State Education Department.

The initiative is intended to identify focus zones which are areas with severe spread of the virus and buffer zones, implemented in the areas outside the most impacted areas, to prevent further spread.  Restrictions and necessary actions vary by zone, with red micro cluster zones, most restrictive; orange warning zones, less restrictive; and yellow precautionary zones least restrictive. The zones are reevaluated every 14 days. 

With today’s announcement and revised mapping, six Clarkstown schools and the Chestnut Grove Administrative Offices fall within the Yellow Zone as indicated below: 

  • Laurel Plains Elementary
  • Link Elementary
  • Little Tor Elementary
  • New City Elementary
  • Woodglen Elementary
  • North High School 
  • Chestnut Grove Administrative Office Building

One of the Yellow Zone restrictions includes weekly Covid testing of 20% of in-person students and faculty at each location. I have serious concerns pertaining to this decision for a new Yellow Zone Cluster map impacting nearly half of our schools for the following reasons:

  • The monumental logistical task to identify the willing students and staff to be tested.
  • The significant staff needed to cover for those faculty/staff who volunteer to be tested during the day.
  • We have learned after experiencing this testing process with Link Elementary that the weekly target of 20% is unsustainable.
  • This decision by the Governor may unfortunately drive these six schools to a 100% remote instructional model which is counter to the needs of our students and families.
  • Shifting to a 100% remote instructional model, in my judgment, will have a negative impact on the social and emotional well being of our students.
  • A shift to a 100% remote instructional model will have a significant impact on child care coverage for the families of our Clarkstown students.

In addition, there are multiple questions that are presently left unanswered from the Governor’s Office which include the following:

  • When will the Yellow Zone Testing begin for our schools?
  • When will we receive the saliva tests to use during the testing, a method used at Link Elementary which is less invasive than the nasal testing?
  • When will the resources, including the personnel, be made available to manage and implement the testing? The District does not have the capacity to implement such testing at seven locations.
  • Who will be paying for the entire process as our current budget has already been significantly strained by COVID-19 response related expenses?

I am reviewing the information we recently received and the options available to us to meet these new Yellow Zone requirements while conversing with our Coordinator of Health Services, Sue Sherlock, and members of our administrative team. While we complete this process, the identified schools and Chestnut Grove will remain open. 

I know there are many questions regarding this announcement, and we will provide additional information as soon as we have clarity on the next steps.  

Thank you.

Stay strong! Stay healthy!

Sincerely,

Signature

Martin D. Cox, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools