In a note to the community Friday, Rye schools boss Eric Byrne said the school district expects to have COVID testing capabilities soon. “I am confident that in the coming days we will have everything in place to conduct COVID-19 testing should we need to do so,” said Byrne.
The testing capacity will be required by the State for classes to remain in-person if and when Rye is given a “Yellow Zone” designation by the State. In fact, parts of Rye entered the “Yellow Zone” last week as a buffer around Port Chester’s “Orange Zone” (even more serious) designation.
Date: Fri, Nov 20, 2020 at 4:24 PM
Subject: RCSD Community Update
To: Rye City School District Recipients
Dear RCSD Community,
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced five newly-designated micro-cluster yellow zones in Westchester County. Thankfully, Rye was not one of them. This is good news, although I remain cautious as zone designations are updated weekly. Last week in my Friday update, I shared with you the challenge of mandated testing. Thank you to all of you who reached out to connect the District with possible testing partners. We have been conducting meetings with testing companies non-stop since last Friday. As a result, I am confident that in the coming days we will have everything in place to conduct COVID-19 testing should we need to do so. At next week’s Board of Education meeting, I will provide the Board and community with an update on our testing plan.
We learned of a new COVID-19 positive case and a presumptive case at Milton School early this morning, which will unfortunately require students and faculty to quarantine over the holiday. There were three more positive cases associated with Rye High School this past week, none of them requiring any additional school-related contact tracing or quarantine. I am happy to report that none of the cases are a result of in-school spread; good news for us all. On Monday, November 23, Rye Middle School will reopen for in-person learning. I know it has been a challenging two weeks for students, parents, and faculty alike, and that everyone is looking forward to being back in the school.
As COVID-19 positive case numbers continue to rise here in Rye and in surrounding communities, Governor Cuomo has stated that if school districts are to stay open in an area deemed a micro-cluster yellow zone, they must be able to test 20 percent of the student, faculty, and staff population in a two-week period. Parents/guardians should have received a COVID-19 test permission form via email today. Please fill those out as soon as possible so we can be ready to begin testing should Rye be declared a yellow zone. If you didn’t receive a form, the link is here. Please fill out and submit a form for each of your students.
In his press conference on Wednesday, Governor Cuomo announced that individual school districts are in charge of deciding the percentage of cases that would result in a school closure if their communities have not already been designated a yellow, orange, or red zone, all of which come with testing and/or closure regulations. This news came as a surprise to me and to my fellow superintendents, who had never been told that this was the case. He brought this up in response to a question about the NYC Public Schools. The guidelines for NYC are different from the rest of NYS including Rye. We will continue to work with the Westchester County Department of Health to make decisions related to closures and reopenings.
The Rule of Six
County Executive George Latimer also held a press conference this week and released a statement in which he reiterated the need to maintain six feet of social distancing in schools. It appears that the county and the state have no intention of altering the six-foot mandate at this time, particularly in light of the dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Thank you to the many of you who have sent advocacy letters to our state and local lawmakers about supporting schools during these challenging times. Please keep them coming; these letters do have an impact. A draft letter and contact information for legislators can be found here.
No Reply, Please
Although I am always happy to hear from parents and colleagues, please do not hit “reply” to my weekly email updates or other communications. Those come from an unmonitored outbound email system, and I do not receive those emails; they end up somewhere in the ether. Please use my email address email@example.com or, for more general comments or inquiries, use firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise that emails to those two places are always answered as promptly as humanly possible.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday next week, a final reminder to please abide by the travel regulations put forth by New York State. I feel like I am constantly harping on this, so I will desist this week. Detailed information can instead be found here.
I will not be sending a community update next Friday, as I hope to be recovering from a large turkey dinner as it will be just me and my wife Andrea and our dog Daisy celebrating together. My next update will come on December 4. Until then, stay well.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Thanksgiving,
Eric Byrne, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools