As we all know the district, in accordance with the governor’s mandate, has moved to all remote-learning. But the question of how COVID-19 testing would work is still being asked, and for clarification The Panther Eye reached out to several administrators.
We asked High School Principal Mr. Perry and Vice Principal Ms. DeLaPlante if they had any current information that they could share with us from the high school’s perspective. They responded by saying: “The COVID-19 testing will be on hold while we are designated to be in the Orange. Once we return to yellow we will revisit the testing procedures. The way the test will be run will be a little different than we planned to do it the first time.”
Seeking more information, we also reached out to Ms. Dauria and Mr. Day who are spearheading the district’s COVID-19 testing plans. Ms. Dauria responded with “right now, the testing for students and faculty are on hold until we receive more information regarding the Orange Zone designation.”
We were able to secure an interview with Mr. Day where we went more in depth into the district’s response to COVID-19 testing.
Mr. Day said that the district currently has 2,500 COVID-19 tests in their possession, however the move from yellow zone to orange zone changed the testing plans. “We were prepared to do testing for the yellow zone but when we moved to orange the rules completely changed so we stopped.” As to who would administer the tests, the school nurses have been trained extensively on how to perform and interpret the tests. “All the nurses met with the doctor Wednesday night [November 18th] and they all practiced giving the test, using the test, and interpreting the results.”
Currently the district doesn’t have the ability to add hundreds of students to the remote academy and still run in-person school, if the district was to look at bringing back in-person learning there would need to be an overwhelming majority of staff and students willing to go back to school. “We would not run school here and add 200 kids to the Remote Academy, we don’t have the resources to do it. So in order to come back we have to have pretty much the consensus among the staff and the students to consent to be tested, so we can’t just be 50% it’s got to be more than that.” Erie County’s positivity rate would also be a huge factor, currently the rates are well above 3%, “We’re doing what we need to do, and I think the results fare out. But because of what’s going on around us [families] feel like there’s just a matter of time before it gets in [the school], so those rates would have to drop significantly I think for people to feel confident to test.”
The district is still hopeful about returning to in-person learning but they are well aware of the restraints against them. “I don’t want to offer the idea that it can’t be done, I’m just saying it’s daunting to do it and I’m just being honest. I want to give people hope but I don’t want to give them false hope…Could we do it? Perhaps, but the plan that we use for a week would have to be different than if we had to keep doing it for weeks after weeks after weeks and that could get hard on nurses. We would have to add more people that would be able to do the testing. To continue to do it is another challenge, but the biggest challenge is getting 100%, and then could we do the 25%? I think maybe we could, but we’d have to do it and rethink it. I don’t want to burn people out.”
Testing 100% of the school’s population would prove to be quite the challenge especially at the current capacity “I don’t think we could [test] all the students and all the staff in 7 days. So it might mean that if we were to do it, we might have to think about trying to do it a building at a time. It would have to be phased in, I don’t know if we could test 3,500 people in a week…It would be very, very challenging to do the testing for the orange zone unless they change the rules, which right now the rules are that. It’s 100%.”
Mr. Day and the rest of the district and high school staff remain committed to student safety before anything else, as much as they would like to see all of us in school they would rather we stay safe. “The message is that I would like to get the kids back to school as quickly as we can as long as it’s safe. Our community has done a good job building a safe environment but there’s some significant concerns, some legitimate concerns that people would have that we would have to account for before we could do it. I’d like the students to know that we want to get them back here as quick as we can, but we have to make sure we do it the right way or else we’re going to mess it up. It’s got to be done the right way so that might take longer than some people might like.”
Hunter is a sophomore at Sweet Home High School and was previously involved with the Panther Press. This is his second year with The Panther Eye and he currently serves as the News Editor, His writing this year will primarily focus on the High School administration, Student Government, and the Board of Education.