Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman gave an update about the district’s plan should New York State designate Scarsdale as a micro-cluster in a yellow, orange or red zone in an email to the community Friday, Nov. 20.
In a yellow zone, schools can stay open as long as there is “mandatory 20% weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings,” according to the state guidelines. Businesses would remain open, indoor and outdoor dining would have a four-person per table maximum, gatherings would be limited to 25 people indoors and outdoors, and houses of worship would be at 50% capacity.
Orange and red zones would require the physical closing of schools and switching to a fully remote model. Dining, businesses, gatherings and houses of worship would have strict guidelines similar to those before New York State entered the reopening phases last spring and summer.
Schools would be closed for “at least four calendar days after the [orange or red] zone designation is announced,” according to Hagerman, and they can reopen the fifth day with “strict adherence” to New York State Department of Health guidelines that includes 25% of the in-person school community being tested weekly starting seven calendar days after reopening and 100% being tested “within the month.”
“If any of those tests achieve a positivity rate of 2% or higher then the school will be required to close,” Hagerman wrote.
Among the testing options Scarsdale will accept are a written test result from a health care provider or a result from a state-run testing site. Other options the school is permitted to use are a “partnership with other entities who are authorized to perform testing” and to “become approved to perform testing by obtaining a limited-service laboratory (LSL) registration and, once approved by the State, request to received rapid tests and perform testing on students, faculty and staff.”
“We have also been working with an independent lab and are in the final steps of formalizing that contract,” Hagerman wrote. “Additionally, we have applied to the State to become an LSL. In the days ahead, we will be sharing additional information with the community on our testing plan, should we need to enact it, based on a zone designation.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 24, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has urged people to stay home for Thanksgiving and mandated the gatherings be limited to 10 people, reported the statewide positivity rate was 2.96% and he said the previous day 47 COVID-19-related deaths were reported in the state, including two in Westchester County, bringing New York up to 26,411 deaths in total.
“I know it’s hard, but we cannot go backwards — it would be disrespectful to the essential workers, nurses and doctors, many of whom gave their lives so we could stay home and stay safe,” Cuomo said Tuesday, adding, “We will get through this surge by continuing to do the right thing: Wearing our masks, washing our hands, avoiding gatherings large and small, and staying New York Tough.”
According to Westchester County as of Tuesday, Nov. 24, there were 425 new cases in the county and 4,248 active cases, and there have been 39,337 overall. In Scarsdale, there are 38 known active cases.
Scarsdale schools roundup
From Thursday, Nov. 19, to Wednesday, Nov. 25, the Scarsdale School District reported six more positive COVID-19 cases at four elementary schools. The first five involved staff members, the sixth an already quarantined student.
In each case, school building principals along with Assistant Superintendent Eric Rauschenbach and Hagerman sent an email to parents with whatever details they were permitted to share. The only building that required a switch to remote learning was Heathcote Elementary School, which went remote for a day and a half due to two unrelated cases.
Hagerman sent another letter to the community later on Tuesday, Nov. 24, saying that, while none of the cases over the past week could be “traced to in-school transmission,” Heathcote Elementary School had to quarantine 35 staff members due to the latest case, which is almost 40% of all faculty and staff in the building. That number includes the “full custodial team, a number of cleaners, some teachers, and many teaching aides.”
With K-2 students having pivoted to remote learning as the school prepared for the transition to full-day K-2 instruction beginning Monday, Nov. 30, the building was able to remain open for hybrid instruction for grades 3-5 this week. While the other elementary schools will begin full-day K-2 as scheduled on Nov. 30, Heathcote K-2 will remain remote until Dec. 3.
“While we have been able to run school this week, it has been extremely challenging, and only possible through the hard work and flexibility of our staff and the fact that K-2 students were remote to allow for the transition to full-day instruction after the Thanksgiving holiday,” Hagerman wrote. “The majority of the quarantines necessitated by recent cases will end on December 3rd, reducing the staffing challenges (assuming there are no additional quarantines).”
Below is a list of the district’s recent positive COVID-19 cases:
Thursday, Nov. 19: Heathcote reported a positive case in the “facilities staff,” a person who was in school the previous two days. The staff member was asymptomatic. “While this staff member had no contact with students over the time he was in school, there were contacts among the faculty and staff,” administrators wrote. Heathcote moved to remote learning for the afternoon session on Nov. 19.
Later that day, an “unconnected” positive was reported at Heathcote. “The staff member has had contact with students, faculty and staff,” administrators wrote. “All students and staff who were in contact have been contacted by the school and placed in quarantine.” The school moved to fully remote learning for Friday, Nov. 20.
Sunday, Nov. 22: Greenacres Elementary School learned of a positive case in the afternoon. “The staff member was in school last week through Thursday morning and contact tracing had to be completed for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” administrators wrote. “This process has been completed and the affected students and staff have been informed to quarantine.” The school did not require a switch to remote learning.
Monday, Nov. 23: Edgewood Elementary School reported a positive case. “The staff member was last in contact with students on Friday, November 20th, and last in contact with staff on Monday, November 23rd,” the administration wrote, adding, “Contact tracing for the students and staff has been completed and the families affected have been contacted. At this time, we plan to open Edgewood for in-person learning tomorrow.We expect to move forward with the introduction of K-Grade 2 full-day attendance on November 30th as previously scheduled.”
• Tuesday, Nov. 24: Quaker Ridge School had a positive case reported by a staff member who had not been in the building since Nov. 16, having been “quarantined due to an out of school contact,” according to administrators, who also wrote, “This individual’s hours are such that they are not regularly in contact with other faculty and staff … Based on the initial in-school investigation, it has been determined that the existing quarantine and timing of test results precludes the need for additional quarantine of any staff or students.”
• Wednesday, Nov. 25: Greenacres reported a unique case as it involved a student that was “in an already quarantined class.” District administrators said the Department of Health would refer the case to its epidemiological team. “The contact tracing process has been completed and the affected students and staff have been informed to quarantine,” administrators wrote in a letter to parents. “At this time, we are planning to reopen Greenacres on the usual hybrid schedule Monday, November 30th, including the implementation of full-day k-2. We will communicate further if this plan should need to change.”