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COVID-19: Westchester School District To Reopen With Hybrid Model, District Employees Object

New Rochelle FUSE is not pleased with the district's decision not to reopen in its remote learning model.
New Rochelle FUSE is not pleased with the district's decision not to reopen in its remote learning model. Photo Credit: File

While most schools in Westchester will be returning from the holiday break and learning remotely, at least one district is bucking that trend and will be going to its hybrid model, much to the chagrin of some of its employees.

When students in New Rochelle return to class on Monday, Jan. 4, those in grades 4 through 8 will return to the district's full-hybrid model, joining the younger students.

At the high school, the Alternative Campus School will return to the hybrid model on Monday, Jan. 11, and the rest of the school will follow on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Interim New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero said that in order to stick with those dates and prevent the spread of COVID-19, students should be kept home if they traveled over break or were a part of any large gathering.

“Please be sure to respond to the daily student questionnaire,” Marrero wrote to parents. “We ask that you err on the side of caution and exercise the choice to start the new year in a virtual learning environment and transition to in-person later.”

With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the state, the New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees (FUSE) called on the district to make a change, citing a record high number of positive cases in New York and the reopening of the Javits Center as an emergency field hospital for potential COVID-19 overflow cases.

“Westchester County Executive Latimer and New York State Sen. Shelley Mayer both directly advocated for a mitigation pause,” they noted. “Yet, they were both rebuffed by the school board and Superintendent Marrero. Successful plans are responsive to facts and reality,”

New Rochelle FUSE made note that 25 Westchester school districts have altered their reopening plan and scheduled an extended “holiday pause,” with only New Rochelle and Yonkers not adjusting to the data.

The Federation made note that due to A/B cohorts, a five-day pause would only mean two additional days of remote learning while providing an additional seven days for potential symptoms to manifest.

“Nothing could be more important than ensuring every student in our schools is safe,” they said. “That is why we strongly support a five-day holiday pause, which would provide time for students and staff unknowingly exposed over the holiday break to develop symptoms without coming into schools and creating an exponential spread.”

There are currently 728 active COVID-19 cases in New Rochelle, according to the county Department of Health, second in Westchester only to Yonkers’ 1,848 active cases.

“New Rochelle is second only to Yonkers in positive cases,” New Rochelle FUSE stated. “Without this brief pause, the City School District of New Rochelle creates circumstances for repeated closures due to infections and recurring quarantines.

“Using simple science and logic, the five-day mitigation pause, combined with rigorous, on-site random testing, will provide a safe and sustainable reopening for all.”

Marrero said that any student that may have come into contact with someone who tested COVID-19 should quarantine for at least 10 days, at which point the quarantine can conclude, provided no symptoms have manifested, though monitoring for symptoms should continue for at least two weeks.

“If any symptoms develop, the individual or parent should immediately report this change to the district and the local health department or their healthcare provider to determine if the individual should seek testing.” 

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