Due to the State of Emergency issued by County Executive George Latimer on Monday, White Plains Schools will be closed for the remainder of this week and into next week, with a rolling five-day evaluation going forward.
Last Friday, Dr. Joseph Ricca, White Plains School District Superintendent, announced via a Facebook videoconference that all White Plains schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday this week and that snow days would be used to cover the closures.
On Monday, after a conference call with the County Executive and the county’s schools superintendents, Ricca held another Facebook videoconference to inform school staff and families that they should prepare for school closures to run through the scheduled Spring break, ending April 11 and possibly beyond.
Ricca said it is expected schools will remain closed with protection provided by the County State of Emergency declaration, which will prohibit any punitive government measures for the closures and also allow aid.
Ricca said parents and guardians would receive information from their children’s teachers and the district regarding closures and procedures. Distance learning opportunities would likely begin next week and would be facilitated by teachers.
Prior to updates by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Latimer on Monday, there was confusion as to why some Westchester school districts had closed and others remained open.
During his Friday Facebook conference Ricca explained that the White Plains School District closure was consistent with the model of social distancing that has been recommended by the CDC and many medical professionals.
On Friday morning more than 50 superintendents met with New York State and State Education Department officials to discuss the public health concern that the COVID-19 coronavirus poses to communities and schools. During this meeting, there was a collective concern for the health and safety of students, staff, and respective communities, Ricca explained. It was determined that some immediate action was necessary.
Dr. Ricca explained that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had not done a blanket lift of the 180-day requirement for school districts to receive state aid. He further explained that the requirement was lifted only for those schools with an identified positive COVID-19 case, which would close for 24 hours to determine next steps.
According to the Health Dept., the White Plains School District does not have a confirmed positive case, so far, Ricca said. This is why the District needed to use snow days for any closures.”
Members of the NYS legislature, aware of the confusing state of state school funding even under the recent executive order from the governor, quickly organized to prepare legislation, which it hopes to pass this week, that would guarantee any school choosing to close due to coronavirus concerns based on the health or safety of the school community does not lose state funding under the 180 day law, even if not directed by a state or local health official.
In an email message State Senator Shelley Mayer said, “To close or not to close a school district is a decision that each local superintendent must weigh with the advice of school board members, teachers, and community members. There are several challenges that each superintendent or chancellor faces including childcare logistics for parents in districts that close, providing students who qualify for free and reduced lunch with meals, ensuring special needs students receive the services they need, and ensuring a plan for distance learning for schools that close for a longer period of time. These are all issues that my colleagues and I, in coordination with the Governor’s office and state agencies, are working to address.”
During the Monday videoconference Dr. Ricca emphasized that students were not on vacation and that play dates and finding other areas to congregate were not advised because the goal is to minimize exposure to the COVID-19 virus by limiting social contact.
Ricca advised parents to begin making plans for scheduling distance learning in their homes. With all sports suspended he further advised students to keep exercising.
Information about rescheduling of SATs and other exams as well as whether or not the prom and graduation would be cancelled will be addressed at a later date.
Dr. Ricca’s videoconference can be viewed on the White Plains School District Facebook page.