NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Under new guidance issued last night by the CDC, the Federal government is recommending all New Rochelle schools close for up to 6 weeks — not 3 schools for 2 weeks — and extending the school year into July. Governor Cuomo reportedly called for a six-week school closing in New Rochelle earlier in the week, according to one New Rochelle official speaking on background.
The Centers for Disease Control last night issued new recommendations for the next 30 days of mitigation strategies for New Rochelle based on the current situation with widespread COVID-19 transmission and affected health care facilities.
Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo has repeatedly stated that she would not close schools unless directed to do so but has said students who do not attend school will not be penalized for missing school. Many parents, students and residents have been clamoring for the District to close all schools in the District. A large number of parents are not waiting for a decision to close their child’s school: 210 of 734 (28%) students at George M. Davis Jr. Elementary School stayed home in the North End; 380 of 798 (47%) students at Christopher Columbus Elementary School stayed home in the South End.
Even the New Rochelle School District’s Medical Director, Dr. Brooke Balchan, who has reportedly been advocating to close all New Rochelle schools for over a week, has stated on a closed New Rochelle Facebook group that she is keeping her own children home from school.
Dr. Feijóo did not respond to request for comment on this story.
One of the CDC recommendations is “Extend spring break by an additional two weeks to be made up at the end of the standard term.”
Under New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Containment Zone” Plan, all schools within 1 mile of Young Israel New Rochelle are required to close from March 12 to March 25 (New Rochelle High School, Albert Leonard Middle School and the Ursuline School elected to close a day earlier, on March 11).
Under the CDC recommendations, all New Rochelle schools should be closed and the period of closure would extend 2 weeks past the April Spring Break which currently runs from April 6 to April 10 with students returning to school on April 13. The CDC is calling for a return date of April 27.
The 2019-2020 school years is scheduled to end on June 27, 2020. Adding two weeks to the school calendar would push the last day of school to July 10.
Many of the CDC recommendations may be impractical if schools remain open. For instance, the District does not have enough school nurses to perform “regular health checks such as temperature and respiratory symptom screening on arrival at school of students, staff, and visitors.”
In New Rochelle, the CDC recommends “extensive community mitigation activities to support slowing the spread of respiratory virus infections.”
“These approaches are used to minimize morbidity and mortality caused by COVID-19 and minimize social and economic impacts of COVID-19. Individuals, communities, businesses, and healthcare organizations are all part of a community mitigation strategy. Given the widespread community transmission in New Rochelle, New York, including involvement of faith-based organizations and health care exposures, substantial interventions at the community level should be implemented at this time, based on the urgency of protecting the health care system with expected rise in cases by slowing the spread within the community.”
CDC’s School Specific Recommendations:
- Schools should arrange for students at risk of severe illness to be able to implement individual plans for distance learning, e-learning.
- Implement social distancing measures (cancel large gatherings such as assemblies, postpone athletic contests in the absence of spectators, limit all classroom mixing, alter schedules to reduce mixing such as stagger recess, entry/dismissal times, limit inter-school interactions of all types)
- Consider distance or e-learning in schools with higher risk populations such as special needs children.
- Regular health checks such as temperature and respiratory symptom screening on arrival at school of students, staff, and visitors.
- Short-term dismissals for school and extracurricular activities as needed for cleaning and contact tracing.
- Extend spring break by an additional two weeks to be made up at the end of the standard term.
- Cancellation of all school-associated congregations, particularly those with participation of high-risk individuals.
- Consider implementing distance learning if feasible.
UPDATE 3:32 PM 3/12/20
STATEMENT FROM NEW ROCHELLE SCHOOL DISTRICT
Dear parents and guardians,
The City School District of New Rochelle is committed to the ongoing continuous assessment of the needs and circumstances created by the fast-shifting impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. Today, we received additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Education Department and we have been in active dialogue with a broad spectrum of state and local officials. We have toured all of our open schools today and have received considerable meaningful feedback from our staff and students. I have also considered the thoughtful input of Board of Education members, our building leaders, and my administrative cabinet.
After carefully considering all of these important factors I have determined that the closure of all of our schools is the best course of action at this time. I am convinced that this decision will provide the appropriate federal, state and local authorities the time to develop the best short- and long-term plan for the CSDNR. It will also give us the opportunity to best treat the impact this closure will have from an educational and operational perspective.
Therefore, effective tomorrow, March 13, 2020, ALL CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF NEW ROCHELLE SCHOOLS WILL BE CLOSED THROUGH MARCH 25, 2020, RETURNING ON MARCH 26, THE SAME PERIOD OF TIME AS THE SCHOOLS LOCATED WITHIN THE CONTAINMENT ZONE.
During this time the Central Administration team will continue to actively assess and monitor all aspects of this rapidly changing situation in consultation with state and federal officials. Students and staff, with the exception of certain key personnel, will not be permitted in any of our schools while we assess and consider all of the information and guidance being provided to the CSDNR, which has literally changed by the hour. Please be assured that we are doing everything in our power to continue to provide academic opportunities and mitigate any negative impact on our students caused by these extraordinary circumstances to the extent possible.
We remain committed to the full student body and staff and thank all who participated in the ongoing open and honest dialogue. This is a complex matter and we will continue to manage it with the same sense of purpose and sound leadership our students, staff and community deserve.
Dr. Laura Feijóo