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Daily local news magazine for Rochester, NY and surrounding areas (Gates, Greece and Henrietta)

New coronavirus testing requirements in schools

Author: Ina P.

Greece, N.Y. – Schools across Monroe County’s yellow zone are getting ready to ramp up COVID-19 testing.

Under the yellow zone designation, schools must test 20% of students and faculty weekly.

The state has sent testing materials to districts in the local yellow zone. That includes the Greece Central School District, and Superintendent Kathleen Graupman says officials are working hard to get everything in order.

Graupman says parents across the region shouldn’t be surprised if testing plans appear different between districts – potentially even between schools, too. In Greece, testing descriptions have been sent to families, along with consent forms.

She stresses that students will only be tested if parents give their consent. However, she says the test is not as invasive as typical nasal tests, and she’s hoping that once students begin taking them next week, more families will want to sign up.

“We want to make sure families are comfortable and they don’t feel forced into testing at schools if they’re not comfortable with that,” Graupman said during a Zoom call Friday.

Tests can be conducted outside of school, however the district has also floated ideas such as after-hours testing or weekend testing that would allow parents to be with kids on-site.

“There’s a lot of different ways that I think schools are trying to figure out how to make this work, but also to build trust with families, make them feel more comfortable about the process and allowing their children to be tested on-site,” she said.

Locally, health leaders have praised schools for keeping COVID-19 rates low, and Graupman says she expects testing results will continue to come back mostly negative and help lower yellow zone totals. However, she adds that in order to exit a yellow zone, the community needs to help, too.

Friday, she voiced concerns about the possibility of schools maintaining low rates – while COVID-unsafe practices take place at the community level.

“If we’re interested in increasing the amount testing to help get a better sense of the sampling in terms of really where are we, then I think we need to consider not just schools and really consider other places as well,” she said.

Graupman says the yellow zone guidelines, while a significant change, are manageable for the district. If the situation worsens to an orange or red zone, that could change, and districts could face possibilities like fully-remote learning or 100% testing for anyone who comes into a school.

“We’re also working on creating a one night a week where if a parent wanted to be there with their child, they would be able to come in with them in a time period to have the test down if they are more comfortable that way,” said Gates Chili Central School District Superintendent Christopher Dailey.

“To say the least, it’s been a very hectic week,” he added.

Parents are also weighing in.

‘I feel confident my district would tell us if they weren’t ready. I totally have complete trust of my district,” said Fairport mother of four, Lisa Christensen. “I don’t have trust with the state government and how they’re implementing it.”