Dear Putnam Valley Community:
I am so proud of what the students, staff, and families have been able to accomplish these last several weeks. Our students are resilient, our staff is dedicated and I am grateful for the “normal” moments we are sharing as an educational community. If you can find the time, I would encourage you to watch last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting to learn how our clinical staff has been working to meet the needs of our students and assist our staff. (https://youtu.be/0lbb0C2oBRY?t=391)
As virus cases rise across the country and here in Putnam County, we continue to stay in close contact with the Department of Health and monitor the positivity rates in our area and the potential for being identified by NYS as a microcluster.
Microcluster Designation: Putnam County reached the threshold to be identified as a “Yellow Zone” on Tuesday, November 10; if the county stays above that threshold for 10 consecutive days, it would then be identified by New York State. Putnam County also passed the threshold to be identified as an “Orange Zone” on Friday, November 13, if the county stays above that threshold for 10 consecutive days, it would receive that designation. Please see the graphic below for more information on the zone designations.
Link to COVID Positivity Dashboard: https://forward.ny.gov/percentage-positive-results-county-dashboard
Link to Microcluster Information: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/MicroCluster_Metrics_10.21.20_FINAL.pdf
COVID Testing: The Putnam Valley School District continues to explore all available options to conduct the required testing outlined with the Yellow Zone designation. We have been working closely with the Putnam County Department of Health and the New York State Department of Health and have recently made some progress in this area, although many questions still remain. If testing were to become a viable option, there would certainly be a delay between receiving the designation and being able to implement any in-school testing program. That length of time would depend on several factors, the most pressing being how long it takes to receive the test kits from New York State and the approval process to administer the tests. We anticipate that these non-invasive tests will be self-administered by adults and administered by our school nurses for students. All testing would be conducted inside of the school. Testing is something we are working toward, it is not something we are capable of doing at this time.
Consent: In order to prepare for any potential in-school testing program, we must begin the process of collecting active consent from each of our families to administer tests to our in-school learners. We are required to test a random sample of 20% of all in-school students and staff, remote only learners are excluded. If we are unable to receive consent for students who attend in-school classes, those students will be asked to switch to remote only status as outlined by the New York State Department of Health. We are working on a consent form that will be sent home to families in the near future.
Unknown at This Time: PVCSD remains committed to transparency during these challenging times, however, there is a lot of information that we do not yet have. I’ve identified some of those items below:
- Will NYS designate the entire county as a Yellow Zone or only a town or area as has been done in surrounding counties?
- When will New York State notify us of any possible designation?
- As the number of clusters identified by NYS continue to rise, will the Governor revise the metrics or intervene with new guidance?
- Does NYS have enough tests to send to the growing number of schools identified within a Yellow Zone? If so, how long will it take for those tests to arrive?
- How many testing kits and machines will arrive? How many tests can be processed in a day? How long would it take to process tests for 20% of our students and staff?
- Will Putnam County quickly move from a Yellow to an Orange Zone requiring schools to be closed?
- Will we need to test staff back into the buildings before we can test students back into class?
- What impact would positive test results stemming from in-district testing have on our instructional program?
Known at This Time: PVCSD staff has been working around the clock to get answers to our questions and to explore all viable options to safely keep our schools open. Below is some of the information we have at this time:
- There remains little evidence that the virus is spreading within schools. Statistically, schools are considered one of the safest places to be; our health and safety protocols are working.
- The Putnam County Health Department is willing to partner with schools in their county to help with any potential testing program.
- New York State has offered to provide testing kits to school districts within a NYS designated cluster zone.
- The PVCSD is prepared to quickly transition into remote only instruction if the need arises.
- In the event we are forced to close for in-person instruction, we will continue to pursue all available options to safely reopen our schools.
- After testing 20% of our in-person students and staff, if our positivity rate is below the county rate, we do not need to continue weekly testing.
Thank you for your continued partnership during these difficult times. As a District, we must be prepared to quickly transition to a remote learning for all model if New York State makes that determination. Parents will also need to be prepared for this instructional shift, which could happen by the end of this week. We will continue to explore all opportunities to resume in-person instruction as soon as it is permissible and safe. In the event the district is forced into remote learning, our teachers are well prepared to ensure that students remain engaged and continue learning throughout any closure of our physical school buildings.
Dr. Jeremy Luft
Superintendent of Schools