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Westchester County Creates Working Group to Assist Local School Districts with Reopening Transition

WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Westchester County Government has worked closely with local school districts across the County to provide assistance and public health support to protect our schools, teachers, staff and most importantly our students. In order to create a more streamlined process as Westchester County School Districts prepare for the fall, the County has established a working group designed to further provide information and support around the areas of public health, emergency preparedness and response. The goal of the task force is to help create a more efficient way to provide feedback for common issues that may arise such as: the bulk purchasing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), suggesting vendors for Plexiglas dividers and signage, offering assistance with contact tracing, and developing a standardized frequently asked questions document. Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “No one knows what we will be up against when our school districts start to reopen again. If we do see plans for a return in September, administrators will have a limited amount of time to make crucial decisions about how to provide a quality education for our students, while maintaining their health and safety, which will always be our top priority. It is my hope that this working group will make the transition process smoother, and provide an easy venue for districts to reach out to us for the support they may need.” Last week, the New York State Department of Health and Board of Regents released specific guidance requiring all school districts to develop a re-opening plan, to be reviewed and approved by the State. The first action steps for the County’s school reopening working group are as follows: • Create a survey for school districts, to be collected by the Superintendents, to identify the quantity and type of PPE gear required for a safe reopening. The County will assist in procuring the equipment through outside vendors. • Host webinars centered around specific aspects of returning to school: proper school cleaning, food provisions for kitchen staff, protocols for contact tracing, and attaining PPE gear. • Designate points of contact at the Westchester County Department of Health to assist with health care concerns as they arise. Deputy Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health Joseph Glazer has been named leader of the working group. Joining Glazer will be White Plains School Superintendent Joe Ricca, Susan Spear and Aviva Meyer of the County Executive’s Office, Dr. Dial Hewlett, Peter DeLucia and Marina Yoegel of the Health Department, and Hernane DeAlmeida from the Department of Public Works. Glazer said: “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. I am humbled to be helping lead an effort with the goal of returning students to schools and classrooms that are safe for everyone.” Ricca said: “Under the strong leadership of County Executive Latimer and our talented County partners, coordination and collaboration between the County and our public school districts has been consistent throughout the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for this continued partnership as we all work to continue to support our children and community members throughout Westchester. As we look to the future, with a hopeful eye to welcoming our children and staff members back into our classrooms, we know that this partnership will remain critical in providing for the health and safety of our communities. It remains an honor to work alongside so many committed professionals in support of our children. Together, we will move through these challenges successfully and we will be stronger for the shared effort.”

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