School Districts Must Balance the Educational Performance With the Safety and Health of All Children

An Open Letter To The Mount Vernon City School District And Other School Districts in Westchester County And Surrounding Areas!

At this writing, a segment of the school population in Mount Vernon and Westchester remains at risk with the continuing surge of the Delta Variant of the Corona Virus.

Accordingly, I write to ask the Mount Vernon City School District (MVCSD) to consider the hybrid option of instructional learning for kindergarten to sixth grade (under 12) demographic, in the months of September and October in 2021. Here are the reasons why.

First, we are all aware that the under 12 demographic is at significant risk, owing to the inability to administer a vaccine to the group – CDC guidelines. Masking offers some protection, but there are invariably members of that group who are not capable of meeting 100 % compliance for medical reasons. One example is asthma.

This is critical as the immunocompromised are prioritized within the adult population to receive a third dose of the vaccine, for additional fortification. Yet, that same sub-demographic within the under 12 population are forced to participate, at great risk, in the in person instructional learning setting.

Second, we have seen the irrefutable data of rise in cases immediately upon school re opening (August of 2021) around the country.  New York will not be an exception.

Finally, Pfizer board member DrScott Gottlieb predicted on Friday (9/3) the strongest wave of Covid-19’s Delta variant would arrive weeks into September. And what we have seen thus far “was a Delta warning.” “I think our true Delta wave’s going to start to build after Labor Day here in the Northeast and northern part of the country,” he added. “This is going to be a highly regionalized epidemic. And so I do think that Labor Day and [the] return to school are going to be incubators for spread that’s going to lead to that Delta wave.”

Some children, who are likely to get infected, may suffer the fate of “Long Covid” –a potential of life-long liver and kidney disease, after recovery from covid. In worst case, God forbid, hospitalization and death.  In addition, after testing positive,  they will be sent home to quarantine and further spread infection and disease. For those reasons, I humbly ask the board to reconsider the current position of in-person learning for our most vulnerable students: under 12 years demographic; especially those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Dual concerns of loss of learning, and 30% vaccination rate

Anecdotal data suggest the severe “loss of learning” or poor educational performance in some school districts, especially in Mount Vernon, over the last 18 months, where remote educational instruction was dominant. This, buoyed by New York State and CDC guidance, provide cover for the full-speed-ahead action plan. Still, the district deserves high marks for its  concerted and continual efforts to improve the vaccination rates within its school population.

However, this is a Herculean task considering the City of Mount Vernon, which hovered at 30% in July of 2021, has the lowest vaccination in Westchester County, and arguably New York State.

That statistic alone: 30% – reflecting an exceptionally low community vaccination rate – should be a trigger for a carve out.

As board members attempt to balance those concerns, I urge the MVCSD to demonstrate leadership to the other school districts in Westchester County by using a “scalpel” to carve out a hybrid option and communicate that posture, until a vaccine is available; or new data materializes that make for safer, educational options.

Submitted by Derickson K Lawrence

A resident of the City of Mount Vernon, with a minor enrolled in the Mount Vernon City School District.