‘We are in the business of education, not health care’

Monroe. Monroe-Woodbury School Board President Staci McCleary seeks help from elected officials to remove North Main Elementary from the COVID-Cluster ‘yellow zone’ designation

| 27 Oct 2020 | 11:28

    The following letter was emailed on Oct. 21 to state, county and local elected officials on behalf of the Monroe-Woodbury Board of Education.

    Dear elected officials:

    I am writing this letter on behalf of the Monroe-Woodbury School District Board of Education and all the stakeholders within our district. We are asking for help and support during this unprecedented time.

    Our district has gone above and beyond with a solid reopening plan. We have followed all procedures and protocols outlined by the state and have been successfully bringing students into our school buildings since September.

    Last week, one of our school buildings, North Main Elementary, was placed in the COVID-Cluster “yellow zone” designated by Governor Cuomo.

    As of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, this school building is closed and all students will be forced to learn remotely, until further notice. Governor Cuomo’s executive order forces us to either close or test 20 percent of the population of students and staff at this location.

    This is misleading, as we do not really have the ability nor resources to test.

    We have been in contact with the Orange County Department of Health and have been informed, that while the test kits themselves may be free, the staff and related resources to administer the testing would come at the cost of the school district and its taxpayers.

    We are in the business of education, not health care, and are not able to fulfill the testing requirement.

    As such, we had no choice but to close this school building. This is unacceptable. Our students and their families are being penalized because of the school’s proximity to the Governor’s designated COVID-Cluster “red zone.” This red zone encompasses the Town of Palm Tree and the Kiryas Joel community and its school district.

    While we will indeed adhere to the Governor’s executive order, the residents of Palm Tree remain defiant. They continue to operate their schools while being ordered lo remain closes by both the Orange County Department of Health and the Governor. This unfortunate disregard to the Governor’s order has now impacted our ability to remain open. Governor Cuomo has stated throughout this pandemic to “follow the data.” Our COVID dashboard, updated daily by our Superintendent, displays our data. Our COVID numbers are low and within the range dictated by Governor Cuomo. Yet we are being forced to close for an undetermined amount of time. We are asking all of our leaders in local government to advocate on behalf of the students at North Main Elementary School and the entire Monroe-Woodbury CSD.

    Please help us to open our school back up and keep all our buildings open.

    Sincerely, Staci McCleary

    President, Board of Education

    In response
    Justin Rodriguez, Assistant to the County Executive for Communications and Media Relations, said: “The County Executive’s position is that the Yellow Zone should no longer exist. This is a Red Zone-based problem that is bleeding out into its surrounding communities. The County Executive has informed the Governor’s Office of his stance on the matter and he hopes that the students at North Main can return for in-classroom learning.”
    Late last week, State Sen. James Skoufis and Assemblyman Karl Brabenec called on the governor to change the designation or North Main Elementary. Both state legislators say North Main Street Elementary should be excluded from the zone because students and staff in the school have seen zero or near-zero cases of COVID-19 since the school year resumed in September.