July 2021 Re-opening Advocacy Letter

July 2021 Re-opening Advocacy Letter
Posted on 08/02/2021

July 27, 2021

Howard Zucker MD, JD

Commissioner, New York Department of Health

Corning Tower

Empire State Plaza

Albany, NY   12237

Dear Dr. Zucker,

As you might imagine, as of this point in the summer, school districts are in the process of  completing their plans to return to school in the fall of 2021. With that being said, there are still a number of  questions that exist and guidance from the New York State Department of Health is critical to ensure that we are able to fulfill our mission to the children and families we serve. In addition to our need to plan, I'm sure you can sympathize that many parents have not received definitive guidance from their schools as of yet, and many are unclear what arrangements they need to make for their children and family for fall.  

In past weeks, we have noted that some states have already provided timely guidance to their school districts for the fall of 2021, such as New Jersey, Massachusetts and others. By way of this letter, we are once again asking for immediate guidance on the following topics:

1. Transportation: Will schools be required to continue to socially distance students on school busses? Will students and staff on school busses be required to wear masks? Please note, if rules on social distancing during transportation are not changed, some districts will not have the capacity to return all students to school every day, therefore, districts will need to continue with a hybrid approach (Day A/Day B). 
2. Distancing: Will the guidance for in-person school instruction still be three feet, and will  there be any exceptions? At the three foot social distancing requirement some districts may be unable to use their current cafeteria space. 
3. Remote Learning: Will the Department of Health mandate any "accommodations" on behalf of students or staff beyond that which the ADA would require (e.g., remote/virtual learning/work)?

4. Testing: Will there be any requirement for COVID-19 screening testing of students and staff?
5. Masking: Will there be any masking mandates for students or staff in the fall?
6. Athletics: Training and practices for school sports are due to start next month, however we do not know the status of particular sports and what guidance to follow.

It is critical that we receive timely guidance on these topics. Our districts understand that COVID -19 and the transmission of the Delta variant (resulting in increasing transmission rates) have added an element of uncertainty for all involved. However, we believe that one of the best mitigation tools we can employ is to have a clear and well communicated system in place that considers those variants, which could ebb and flow throughout the fall. School districts in the WSWHE region continue to stand ready to work with the Department of Health should you wish to put together a committee of educators and Department staff to talk through these most important issues. 

Dexter signature


James P. Dexter, 

District Superintendent of Schools, WSWHE BOCES

On behalf of the 31 Superintendent of Schools in the WSWHE BOCES region

Michael Healey, Argyle CSD
Michael Markwica, Johnsburg CSD

Kenneth Slentz, Ballston Spa CSD
Lynne Rutnik, Lake George CSD

Michael Graney, Bolton CSD
Bruce Potter, Mechanicville City SD

Douglas Silvernell, Cambridge CSD
Kyle McFarland, Minerva CSD

Mark Stratton, Corinth CSD
Christian Fisher, Newcomb CSD

Kevin Froats, Fort Ann CSD
Michele French, North Warren CSD

Mark Bessen, Interim, Fort Edward UFSD
Kyle Gannon, Queensbury UFSD

Brita Donovan, Galway CSD
Mark Doody, Interim, Salem CSD

Paul Jenkins, Glens Falls City SD
Michael Patton, Saratoga Springs City SD

Brian George, Glens Falls Common
Ryan Sherman, Schuylerville CSD

Thomas McGurl, Granville CSD
Kristine Orr, South Glens Falls CSD

Mark Fish, Greenwich CSD
Patricia Morris, Stillwater CSD

Beecher Baker, Hadley Luzerne CSD
John Goralski, Warrensburg CSD

Andrew Cook, Hartford CSD
Patrick Pomerville, Waterford-Halfmoon UFSD

Daniel Ward, Hudson Falls CSD
Patrick Dee, Whitehall CSD

David Snide, Indian Lake CSD

cc: Dr. Betty A. Rosa, New York State Commissioner of Education

James P. Dexter, District Superintendent of Schools, WSWHE BOCES

Kathy Jo McIntyre, Washington County Public Health Services 

Cathy Medick, Saratoga County Public Health Services

Dr. Daniel Kuhles, Saratoga County Public Health Services

Ginelle Jones, Warren County Public Health

Erica Mahoney, Hamilton County Public Health

Linda Beers, Essex County Health Department

Members of the New York State Assembly

Jake Ashby

John McDonald

Matthew Simpson

Robert Smullen

Mary Beth Walsh

Carrie Woerner

Members New York State Senate

Daphne Jordan

Dan Stec

James Tedisco

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