Debate heats up over whether Yonkers schools should go remote as COVID-19 cases climb
Some teachers and parents in Yonkers are sounding the alarm bells as the city reached the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Westchester - with more than 1,600 residents testing positive over the last two weeks.
Stephanie Sabatelli says her daughter came in close contact with a COVID-positive student at Kahlil Gibran School last week.
She says she thinks it's time Yonkers Public Schools moves fully remote around the holidays, which the district did last year.
"You are worried about spreading it and you're worried about the learning and the education they are having," she says.
Teachers say they are just as concerned.
New York state's COVID Report Card dashboard shows 103 students, 27 teachers and 15 staff members have tested positive for COVID over the last seven days.
"We have a real shortage of substitutes. We can't seem to get people to come in and take over the classrooms when teachers aren't there," says Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Samantha Rosado-Ciriello.
Rosado-Ciriello says staffing levels are getting dangerously low.
"We are doing the best that we can to make sure there is an adult with the students in the classrooms, but is it really the best scenario for our children?" she asks.
Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada says yes.
"Now more than ever, there is nothing more healthier for our children than being in school," he says,
He's not alone. As News 12 reported Monday, most superintendents in Westchester County are committed to in-person learning - including White Plains Public Schools.
While COVID is a concern, superintendents like Quezada are more worried about the negative impacts of remote learning.
"The social and emotional challenges that our students are facing is, to me, more important than anything," he says.
While nearly 90% of Yonkers teachers and staff vaccinated, 107 of them are currently quarantined. Quezada says that's less than 3% of the district's total staff.
Quezada says he plans to keep learning in person unless the state mandates otherwise.
He is urging parents of students without access to a tablet or laptop to contact their school to borrow one.
The state's high school Regents exams in January has been canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.