County Unveils New Working Group to Help Schools Reopen

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County Executive George Latimer announces formation of a new working group to help Westchester schools reopen.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced Monday the creation of a task force that will assist school districts to what they need to protect students, staff and teachers in preparation for the September reopening.

The eight-member school reopening working group will provide information and support relating to public health and emergency preparedness and response. Its goal is to create an efficient way to provide feedback for common issues such as the bulk purchasing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), suggesting vendors for Plexiglas dividers, assisting with contact tracing and developing a standardized frequently asked questions document.

Latimer spoke of the working group on Monday afternoon, after he had held separate conference calls with leaders of the county’s school districts and colleges.

“We’re going to try to provide standardized assistance to them as much as we can keeping in mind that the state government is the primary regulatory agency and the primary support agency for the school districts,” Latimer said. “But the county, too, has a role to play and to be helpful.”

One of the initial steps for the group will be to create a survey for school districts that will be collected by the superintendents to identify the quantity and type of PPE gear that is needed. The county will assist in procuring the equipment through outside vendors.

Another step would be to host webinars focusing on various aspects of returning to school including how to properly clean the buildings, food provisions for kitchen staff, protocols for contact tracing and attaining PPE gear. It will also designate points of contact at the county Department of Health to assist with health care concerns as they arise.

The group will be led by Joseph Glazer, deputy commissioner of the county Department of Community Mental Health. He will be joined by White Plains Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca, Susan Spear and Aviva Meyer from the county executive’s office, Dr. Dial Hewlett, Peter DeLucia and Marina Yoegel of the county Health Department and Hernane DeAlmeida from the Department of Public Works.

Glazer said the goal is to see Westchester’s students return to school in September safely.

“Having provided additional linkage between the Westchester County Department of Health and our schools since the beginning of the pandemic, I understand how important it is for all of us to work together,” Glazer said.

Creation of the working group comes a week after the state Education Department released general guidelines for school districts throughout New York State to follow for a September reopening. Districts must submit their reopening plan by July 31.

The state will determine during the first week of August whether district’s in each of New York’s 10 regions will be able to open based on the result of testing data.

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