Officials in Putnam County met with State Senator Peter Harckham this week to advocate for the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for staff and faculty in schools.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Mahopac Superintendent of Schools Anthony DiCarlo urged Harckham to reach out directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as the New York State Department of Health and New York State Department of Education.
Harckham listened to the concerns and subsequently sent a letter to Health Commissioner Howard Zucker requesting an increase in the vaccine allotment specifically for Putnam teachers and school staff.
“We want to ensure Albany hears the concerns of the Putnam community. The safety of students and staff is and always has been paramount,” Odell said. “Our districts adhered to the school reopening guidance prior to reopening last fall. As with all other industries, our schools must now be permitted to continue their phased reopening. This pandemic model of in-person learning must evolve. Updated state guidance as well as vaccinating our teachers and other school staff are vital components of that forward movement.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Senator Harkham and County Executive Odell to ensure that we can continue to provide appropriate education in our schools that meet health and safety guidelines,” DiCarlo said. “Presently, we are analyzing the updated guidelines and actively encouraging out teachers and staff to obtain vaccinations. The advocacy efforts of both the Senator and County Executive in these areas are invaluable in our success. Additionally , we are surveying our families to ensure that we are aligning our priorities with theirs as we look to welcome back more students as guidance permits.”
Odell assured that the Putnam County Department of Health has the capacity to vaccinate teachers when additional vaccine is supplied by the state. Also included in Harckham’s letter was the request for clear and specific guidance for the next steps in the safe reopening of schools.
Putnam Valley Supervisor Sam Oliverio, who worked for the Putnam Valley School District for more than 30 years, strongly applauded and supports the advocacy of both Odell and Harckham.
“Our children are our greatest resource and treasure. To continue this remote and hybrid educational models, especially for our middle and high school students, is ludicrous,” Oliverio stated. “These young people need the social interaction, hands-on learning and participatory education that only in-person education can provide. It is shameful that our faculties and school staff have not all had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated to ensure that the in-person model of education can proceed. I am hopeful that the state and especially the Governor’s Office hears the requests from our representatives and acts quickly and decisively to provide these needed vaccines.”