Following criticism about leaving certain schools within a Rockland County district open for in-person classes, the acting superintendent of the East Ramapo Central School District has put all schools on remote learning. This came with guidance from New York state officials after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his Cluster Action Initiative for COVID hot spots.
The East Ramapo Teachers Association on Friday called on the East Ramapo Central School District to keep all school buildings closed and continue with remote learning only until the COVID cluster is controlled. While schools in the so-called red and yellow zones have been closed to in-person classes for at least two weeks, the union expressed concern about the potential for spread of the virus as some travel from inside the state’s designated cluster area to school buildings outside the area. East Ramapo Teachers Association Acting President Susan LoRusso:
“We’re very pleased with it,” says LoRusso. “We’re glad the district made the right decision and we’re very much in agreement with it.”
In a letter to the East Ramapo community over the weekend, Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ray Giamartino says that, with guidance from the governor’s office, it has been determined that all schools in the district will extend remote learning to the next two weeks. Again, LoRusso:
“We got a robocall on Satur… we’ve actually gotten two or three this weekend letting us know that this was the district’s decision,” says LoRusso. “It’s also on the district’s web site.”
LoRusso says the union agrees with the Cluster Action Initiative, but thought it hadn’t gone far enough in protecting students, staff and families from a potential spread of the virus as some would travel from inside the state’s designated cluster area to school buildings outside the zones.
“So we don’t have what they call neighborhood schools or community schools necessarily in East Ramapo. We have kids who crisscross the district to go to school outside of what their neighborhood school would be,” LoRusso says. “So our concern was that there are children that lived in those red and yellow zones who would be bused outside their zone to a school that wasn’t in any zone and then they would be coming to school there.”
The union pointed to the decision made in New Rochelle in Westchester County in March to close all school buildings across the district after the state drew a similar cluster area in one section of the city that included only some schools. In the case of the new Cluster Action Initiative, the state will reassess the designated areas after two weeks to see if infection rates warrant extension of the restrictions. The initiative took effect October 9 and also impacts parts of Orange County.
On a press call Monday, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo reported a 3.7 percent positivity COVID-19 rate for Red Zone areas, down from a 6.13 percent average from last week. He says the Red Zone focus areas are home to 2.8 percent of state's population, yet had 17.6 percent of all positive cases reported last week to the state. Red zones contain the cluster itself and carry the most stringent rules. The rules loosen a bit in an orange, or warning, zone, of which there are none in Orange and Rockland Counties. Regulations are even looser in a yellow, or precautionary, zone. The zones are predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities.
Cuomo says the state’s strategy now is to identify micro-clusters, which he described as tiny geographic areas, a mile or so in diameter.
“Wherever we find a concentration of cases relative to our norm, that is a micro-cluster,” Cuomo says. “It is only relevant to New York.”
A micro-cluster has an infection rate of at least 2 percent.
“Our hot spots are doing better than many states,” says Cuomo.
For the week of September 27, Rockland County’s Red Zones had an infection rate of 12.29 percent; 9.77 percent from October 4 through 10; and 12.9 percent October 11. Orange County’s Red Zones had a 24.64 percent infection rate the week of September 27; a 12.41 percent rate the week of October 4 and 3.51 percent October 11. Cuomo says that given October 11’s test results are from weekend data reporting, additional weekday data will be required to assess current trends.