When Will Scarsdale Children Return to School Full-Time

SchoolPlexiglassWhen will Scarsdale children return to school full-time? Scarsdale resident Irin Israel has posed this question many times and receives the answer, “when appropriate."

According to Israel, “This is a phrase that gets thrown around quite a bit, yet has no specific definition. Is “when appropriate” defined by rates, vaccinations, time, or a combination of those metrics? Whether a return to full-time school occurs tomorrow, this spring, fall 2021, or even later – these metrics need to be clearly defined and understood.”

He sent the email below to the Scarsdale School Administration and the Scarsdale Board of Education:

Dear Administration and Board,
There is a major Restart Update coming up at the Monday, January 11th BOE Meeting with mid- and long-term planning documents being released and discussed. Since public comment occurs after the Restart Update, I thought it would be more helpful to provide questions that the Administration should explicitly and clearly answer during that presentation, and that the Board should ask if they are not addressed.

The Administration must know the explicit answers to these questions in order to have made current decisions on restart and for decisions going forward. And the Board needs to know the answers to these questions to understand how Restart is occurring, and to judge the effectiveness of Restart itself and the Administration’s performance during this time.

Pam Fuehrer claimed in a 12/22/20 email to me “on behalf of the Board” of these questions that “almost all are within the realm of management and not governance” and has refused to address them. These questions all entail subject matter about the educational, social and emotional well-being and safety of the community’s children, faculty and staff, and as such, are all within the Board’s purview. These questions and answers not only affect our present school situation but are crucial for decisions about fall 2021. Quite simply, they are reasonable and must be answered publicly and transparently.

It has been clearly shown with the Administration’s own documents written by the District Architect (dated 7/23/20) that ALL current K-5 students and faculty can physically fit in our elementary school spaces full-time at six-foot distancing (in cohorts and while wearing masks) when appropriate and have been able to fit since the start of this school year.letter to the editor

1. What is/are the true and explicit reason(s) that ALL current in-person K-5 children are not in school full-time today?

2. If there are risk mitigation strategies that are preventing the K-5 children from full-time school: can you specifically state those risk mitigation strategies that were committed to and the measurements/metrics of those items that are being used that have placed and currently keep grades 3-5 in a hybrid scenario?

3. Are all of these listed risk mitigation strategies in line with NYS DOH mandatory safety guidelines, or are some going beyond what is required? Which strategies are going beyond, how far beyond, and why? Also, where can the guidelines being used specifically be found in the NYS regulations?

4. What are the agreed upon changes (for example: rates, vaccinations, time) that would allow to adjustments in those risk mitigation strategies, and ultimately allow for full-time learning? Or are these risk mitigation strategies agreed upon indefinitely despite any changes to rates, vaccinations, time, etc.?

5. When you mention building density, can you explain specifically what measurements of density are being used, and how they have been and currently are being measured?

6. Which items above (risk mitigation strategies) are the “sticking points", what has been done to solve EACH of those issues, and why they are not solvable? (One example: at the previous BOE Meeting, it was mentioned by Drew Patrick that teachers/aides need safe spaces to eat lunch - what has been done to solve that issue in the event kids move to full-time and why is it unsolvable?)

7. Basically and overall: What is specifically preventing a return to full-time education at each of the Scarsdale school levels (elementary, SMS, SHS), how is this measured, and what metrics/changes will allow full-time schooling to occur today, this spring, or fall 2021?

Thank you again.
Irin Israel