In response to the global pandemic, New York has banned large public gatherings. But thus far, public officials have not closed the public schools, many of which gather hundreds of children and adults in close contact. A significant group of parents and educators are calling upon Governor Cuomo and the members of the state Board of Regents to close the public schools, as many other states have done. Of course, public officials must take care to provide for feeding children who depend on school meals and to protect children with special needs. But the highest priority must be to protect the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, their families, and their communities.

If you live in New York, the Network for Public Education hopes you will sign this petition.

To: Governor Cuomo and the New York State Board of Regents
From: [Your Name]

Dear Governor Cuomo and Members of the Board of the Regents:

We are school leaders, school board trustees and members, community leaders, educators, and parents of New York State. All across our nation, schools and their communities are working overtime to prioritize the public safety and well-being of students, staff, parents, and even community members who do not have children in school. Although each of our localities has its own ground zero in this pandemic, each of our localities is engaged in fighting the same uphill battle – trying to slow down and contain the rampant spread of this highly contagious and potentially deadly virus in an effort to protect all of our community members, including our first responders and healthcare providers. Unfortunately, our important and individual piecemeal efforts are being hampered by federal and New York State mandates that are unreasonable and unworkable during this pandemic.

Now is the time for bold and decisive leadership. Based on consultation with medical experts and in concert with them, we call on Governor Cuomo and the entire New York State Board of Regents to close all New York State public schools — effective immediately – for a minimum two-week period, include public schools in the “public gathering” ban, and set uniform Statewide health and safety protocols.

We take our children’s education seriously and do not make these requests lightly. However, these are extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures and requests; if our children and our staff are not in good health, proper learning cannot happen. Moreover, piecemeal efforts that vary from community to community will not effectively stop the spread of this disease that knows no geographic limitations. In tandem with these requests, we urge our state leaders to make a public commitment to loosen the grip of the current federal and state mandates that are tying our hands. We call upon our state leaders to ensure that Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order waiver of the mandatory “180-day” requirement does not include stipulations that hamper localities from doing what is expedient and necessary to protect the health of its children, staff, parents, and community members, free from fear of any funding loss or other penalty. In addition, we call upon the Board of Regents to take all necessary and drastic measures to ensure that all students continue on their current path to graduation, without penalty.

And, finally, we urge our state leaders to support and vigorously pursue federal waivers related to ESSA’s accountability requirements, and to cancel the 2020 NYS Grades 3-8 ELA and Math State assessments. It is critical that the Board of Regents send a clear message that public health and safety concerns override the need to administer assessments.

Please understand that we are fully aware of the hardship that school closures impose upon some of the families we serve. Our government and our communities will work tirelessly together to mitigate these hardships. The health and well-being of our children and community members depend on it.

Thank you,

Dr.Michael Hynes, Superintendent
Port Washington Union Free Schools

Port Washington UFS Board of Education
Norah Johnson
Elizabeth Weisburd
Emily Beys
Deborah Brooks
Rachel Gilliar
Larry Greenstein
Dave Kerpen

New Paltz CSD Board of Education
Dr. Bernard Josephsberg, Interim Superintedent
Diana Armstead
Glenn LaPolt
Dominick Profaci
Sophia Skiles
Bianca Tanis
Teresa Thompson
Micheal O’ Donnell