February 3, 2022
Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, New York 12224
Commissioner Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza,
Albany, New York 12203
Dear Governor Hochul and Commissioner Bassett,
As you are aware, the last two years have brought forth a number of challenges for every government agency, business, and citizen in New York State. We can all be proud of the way our communities have responded to the COVID crisis and how our citizenry have responded to keep their neighbors healthy.
As a school leader, I am especially proud of the way in which our students and their families have worked with us to keep our schools open for in-person instruction since September 2020. The flexibility and understanding that our families and students have demonstrated has been extraordinary and, with their partnership, we can affirmatively state that the safest place for the children we serve is within our schools.
From my perspective, it is now time to develop an off ramp for moving forward. In speaking with our families, the consistent message we receive is how they need to move forward. Therefore, I am asking the state to consider working with school leaders to develop an off ramp to move forward which consists of the following key components:
Roadmap on Masking: While we all understand the need for masking during high rates of transmission, providing specific metrics for when this requirement can be optional as transmission rates decrease or vaccination rates reach a certain threshold is essential to maintaining our focus on teaching and learning.
Supporting the Whole Student: After school and extracurricular activities are an essential component of education and a lifeline that brings many of our students to school and these activities have never been more important for our students. However, the current guidelines make participation a significant challenge given the vaccination requirements. We support and advocate vaccination efforts within our communities, however there is a disconnect of logic between school day events (e.g., PE class, student group work) and after school events (e.g., chess club, athletics) which makes it very difficult to explain to our parents and caregivers. It is crucial to recognize that rules which defy common sense or are inconsistently applied threaten to undermine public acceptance of all rules, including those that remain essential. We should not require vaccinations for after school and extracurricular activities if we do not require them for regular school attendance.
I would like to thank you for the changes you have already made to the state's procedures, allowing more students to remain in school and for the millions of tests you have made available to schools across the state. In doing so, this allows us to continue to work with families, keep sick children home, and to provide families with the necessary resources to make informed decisions about children who are symptomatic. In the meantime, we will continue to work with our families to keep everyone in our schools safe, healthy and feeling supported.
Superintendent of Schools