December 8, 2020 (Albany) – As we enter month nine of the COVID-19 pandemic, NYS PTA stands ready to support and assist our parents, families, educators, community members, and schools.
In April 2020, we launched a new COVID-19 webpage, providing guidance for PTA leaders and resources for parents and families, including State Education Department and Department of Health information, school closure and re-opening updates, and information regarding unemployment and meals assistance. These resources can be viewed here: https://nyspta.org/home/covid-19/.
Additionally, we have included information about the State’s new micro-cluster zone strategy, and how it affects schools, which can be viewed here: https://nyspta.org/nys-education-department/ or here https://nyspta.org/school-closure-updates/. These pages contain the official NYS Department of Health Guidance on school-based testing strategies.
NYS PTA is strongly supportive of informed parental choice and decision-making regarding having their child tested in a school-based setting, in a medical office, at a state testing site, or not tested at all. We urge all school districts to have meaningful and collaborative conversations with their parents and families on these matters. We encourage schools and PTAs to continue to work together on timely and meaningful communications to families, where questions can be answered, concerns can be addressed, and where parents and families can feel supported and understand the processes involved in testing.
As noted by State entities, the media, and most recently Dr. Anthony Fauci in yesterday’s press conference with Governor Cuomo, COVID-19 cases appear to be lower in school buildings compared to the surrounding community. This is a true testament to the hard work, dedication, and commitment of our education system, teachers, school-related professionals, school staff, school leaders, and most importantly our students and their families.
We appreciate that Governor Cuomo and the Department of Health have continued to modify school strategies using real-time data, particularly in the past weeks. We have seen guidance which previously required all students and staff be tested, reduced to only a certain percentage of the school population. We have also seen guidance which required continued school testing, reduced to only a one-time testing protocol. This guidance was modified in an effort to keep schools open safely, as schools are a vital part of the community—offering services well beyond education, like mental health services for students, free meals to students and families facing food insecurity, and other critical school-based programs which support children and families in the communities they serve.
We urge the State to continue to use a data-driven process in future modifications of school-based testing strategies, to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff remains the top priority in all decision-making. Parent input in these processes, and parent education on school-based tests is critical. The health and wellness of children has never been more important, and it’s critical to continue to support parent education and informed decision-making. We also urge all parents and families to continue to maintain their child’s routine well-care and well-visits.
We support the continued expansion of the State’s free testing program, so families can have timely access to a free COVID-19 test. COVID-19 testing at private facilities, whether self-pay or through commercial insurance, presents out-of-pocket costs and complex restrictions for families and community members. Expansion of the State’s free testing program will ensure access to services and support for all our families and children.
NYS PTA continues to work daily with State leaders and stakeholders on a number of issues, including child health and well-care, access to free or affordable comprehensive health insurance, family and child food insecurity, support for remote and in-person instruction, data-driven testing strategies, funding support, mental health support for students and school staff, among other critical COVID-19 issues.
We are pleased that State leaders, the State Education Department, Department of Health, and other partners have maintained clear lines of open communication as we navigate this pandemic together.
Unfortunately, with the arrival of the anticipated second wave, we may see additional closures, more remote instruction, and further increased unemployment. We continue to stand ready to help all schools and families during these challenging times.
We urge any family or community member who may be food insecure to email us at Meals@nyspta.org or call 518-452-8808. We will personally help connect you with community partners to enroll you (if needed) in service programs, including SNAP and WIC, and find you help from a nearby food pantry.
Together, we will shine a light on every child, with one voice.
About NYS PTA| http://www.nyspta.org
NYS PTA is one of the oldest and largest child advocacy associations in New York State, established in 1897 to make every child’s potential a reality. With nearly 250,000 members in New York State, PTA is a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for the education and well-being of every child. To learn more about NYS PTA, please visit www.nyspta.org.