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RCSD Community Update

November 13, 2020

Dear RCSD Community,

Last night I decided to try and bring some normalcy to life by cooking dinner. In my house, cooking is my job, so lately it has been lots of take-out or cold cereal. While preparing the meal, my cell phone kept pinging with new email alerts. Thank you to the many members of our community who reached out and shared their contacts at medical groups and testing organizations. The outpouring of information and offers to help us meet this new challenge of COVID-19 testing is quite impressive and much appreciated. Today, I started holding calls with organizations who may be able to assist us in this endeavor - thank you.

Cases/Quarantine

The District has seen a concerning increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases this week, particularly at the high school where we announced five new cases. As a result of a case identified on Thursday morning, we were forced to dismiss school early on Thursday to allow for contact tracing. There is one new case associated with Midland School and no new cases at the other schools. Rye Middle School remains on remote learning for another week due to the number of faculty and staff in quarantine. In-person school resumes at RMS on Monday, November 23. Thus far, we are still not seeing any in-school virus spread. We are hopeful that our ongoing risk mitigation efforts will continue to be successful.

Parties Over the Weekend

The District has received reports of parties and other events held over last weekend where students were gathered in large groups, not wearing masks, and not social-distancing. If the reports of these parties are true, they seriously endanger the ability to continue in-person instruction. They can both encourage community spread and defeat the efforts we have instituted to reduce transmission vectors and enable contact tracing. While it is impossible to avoid all contact outside of school, we ask that community members act in the interest of public health and observe gathering limits, wear masks, and social distance during any gatherings. The Washington Post just published an article about how small indoor gatherings are fueling the spread of COVID-19. Click here to read it.

COVID-19 Testing

Newly-announced state regulations require that if a school district is in a yellow zone, the district must test a minimum of 20 percent of students and faculty every week in order to remain open. Faced with the distinct possibility of finding ourselves in this situation, the District applied to become a Limited Services Laboratory. Yesterday, I asked the community for help identifying potential testing partners. We will keep everyone posted on our progress in securing one. I also want to apologize for misspelling my own name in the email link. I would blame Friday the 13th, but that was the 12th. Mea culpa...

Travel Regulations

New York State travel regulations are linked here. Travelers returning to New York from a non-contiguous state are required to have a negative COVID-19 test three days before departure, and again on the fourth day back in New York, or they must quarantine for a full fourteen days.  I apologize for misstating the contiguous states in last week’s letter. They are Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Travelers from these states are not subject to the travel guidance/quarantine requirements. 

Advocacy Efforts

Yesterday I met with a group of parents who want to know how to help in keeping our schools open and in fully reopening when it is safe to do so. There were many great ideas and helpful and constructive feedback shared during the meeting. One area we discussed was that of advocacy and who to best contact to try and get schools the support and resources needed to stay open and to progress to full reopening.  Right now, much of the COVID-19 response in NY State is dependent on Governor Cuomo. While contacting other legislators may be helpful, ultimately, Governor Cuomo is making the decisions that determine what schools can and cannot do during this challenging time. Historically, the Governor has been most responsive to letters and calls from voters. While my fellow superintendents and our elected school boards have been advocating for support for many months, our voices are not often heard. The most effective advocacy is for community members to send messages to the Governor asking for:

  • Funding. Schools have received no funding for expenses related to COVID, from ventilation improvements to PPE to cleaning supplies. The RCSD has spent an estimated $650,000 with much more to come
  • Testing support. School districts have received no assistance from state or local government with fulfilling the new testing requirements. Finding lab partners, purchasing tests, and paying for processing for approximately 700 tests per week are all left up to the RCSD

Send a message to Governor Cuomo electronically here.

Via mail at:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo 
Governor of New York State 
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, NY   12224

Or by phone at (518) 474-8390

As always, thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Eric Byrne, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools