A Westchester school district will be extending its plan for remote learning for a “holiday break” due to rising COVID-19 numbers.
This week, Yonkers Schools Superintendent Edwin Quezada sent a letter to the community saying that the district would be going 100 percent remote between Monday, Jan. 4, and Friday, Jan. 8, with students planning to return to the classroom as of Monday, Jan. 11.
During that week, students will be distance learning while teachers and staff members in school buildings are expected to be inside schools to deliver instruction.
“While a holiday pause is most certainly a prudent step in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, one week simply is not enough time as we learned from the shortened pause after Thanksgiving break when numbers shot up,” Yonkers City Council President Mike Khader said. “We must err on the side of caution and provide at least a two-week pause.”
Khader applauded the decision to go remote, but said that during that stretch, teachers and staff members should also remain home to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Yonkers, which has seen the most cases in Westchester since the pandemic began in early March.
“The option to remain at home during remote instruction should also include teachers and staff,” he said. “Our district has shown it is able to function 100 percent remotely, educators included.
“COVID has proven that it does not discriminate and we must do everything we can to keep everyone safe during these unprecedented times, while always adhering to CDC guidelines.”
Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, the President of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, made note that there have been nearly 100 new COVID-19 cases in the district that stemmed from the Thanksgiving holiday, 41 percent of which were students, 59 percent of staffers, which has forced hundreds into temporary quarantine.
“It is evident that a holiday pause for a minimum of two weeks with students learning remotely and staff having the option of teaching remotely from their homes is the safest approach for our community,” she said.
Yonkers City Councilwoman Shanae Williams noted that in Westchester, 21 other schools have also implemented a “holiday pause,” none of which have seen as many COVID-19 cases as Yonkers.
“The fact that we are leading in positive covid cases is exactly why a holiday pause is necessary,” she said. “Let’s also keep in mind that children and instructional staff are also at risk of contracting the virus and so they should be protected at all costs.”
According to the New York State COVID-19 Schools “Report Card,” a total of 50 students have tested positive for the virus since September, with another 76 teachers and staff members with confirmed cases.
There has been a total of 438 lab-reported positive COVID-19 cases in school-aged children since the state began tracking the numbers over the fall.
“As education chair, I support the pause as I see it being beneficial in combatting the spread,” Councilwoman Tasha Diaz added. ”As numbers continue to rise I feel it would be proactive to coincide with our neighboring school districts for the betterment, safety, and well-being for all. I look forward to pressing the reset button so our precious children can get back to some normalcy.”
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