Earlier this week officials in Putnam County held a meeting with New York State Senator Pete Harckham. The purpose of the meeting was to escalate local concerns regarding the ability of schools to safely introduce more students back in to the school building.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Mahopac Superintendent of schools Anthony DiCarlo have been vocal about the importance of vaccine availability for school staff and faculty, and that was a major focus of this meeting. The pair urged the Senator to contact the Governor directly as well as the New York State Department of Health (NSDOH) and New York State Department of Education (NYSED).
During the meeting Senator Harckham agreed to advocate for more vaccines specifically for school staff in Putnam County and has subsequently sent a letter to Commissioner Zucker requesting an increase the vaccine allotment specifically for Putnam County teachers and other school staff. County Executive Odell assured the group that the Putnam County Department of Health has the capacity to vaccinate teachers when additional vaccine is supplied by the State. Also included in the Senator’s letter was the request for clear and specific guidance for the next steps in the safe reopening of schools.
During the meeting, Odell and DiCarlo, along with representatives from the Putnam County Department of Health also shared their concerns that schools are left behind as the State moves ahead with the phased reopening of industries and businesses.
County Executive Odell says, “We want to ensure Albany hears the concerns of the Putnam community. The safety of students and staff is and always has been paramount. 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.”
Putnam County school districts have been working together with the Putnam County Department of Health since last Spring to address the health and safety concerns alongside the educational needs of each community. While what works in one school district may not work in another, the coalition of Putnam superintendents have worked together to interpret guidance from New York State and implement plans that adhere to (NYSDOH) and (NYSED) guidance documents. These documents were last updated in the summer of 2020.
Mahopac Superintendent of schools, Anthony DiCarlo says, “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. 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.”
Putnam Valley Town Supervisor Sam Oliverio who worked for the Putnam Valley School District for over 30 years, strongly applauded and supports the advocacy of both Executive MaryEllen Odell and NY State Senator Harckham. Oliverio stated, “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. 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.”