Information on COVID “zones” and school-based testing (w/video)

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Albany County, we wanted to provide our families with some information on how that could potentially affect our district in the coming weeks.

Governor Cuomo has detailed a COVID-19 micro-cluster strategy that focuses on geographic zones or communities. Depending on a number of factors, a community can be designated as a “yellow,” “orange” or “red” zone. The designation is determined by local infection, hospitalization and death rates, available hospital and intensive care unit beds, and available healthcare staff. For each designation, communities and school districts within the zone would be required to take certain actions. 

While our school community has done a remarkable job maintaining a healthy and safe environment, the infection rate continues to climb in surrounding areas. As such, we want to be prepared to take the necessary actions to keep our schools open for in-person learning if our community is part of a “zone” designation.

How will we know if the district is in a designated yellow, orange or red micro-cluster zone?

If the district is placed into a micro-cluster zone by the New York State Department of Health, the district will use existing internal and external communications channels to notify staff, students and families/caregivers with as much advance notice as possible. These channels will include email and the district website, menands.org.

What happens if our district is placed in a yellow zone?

Although schools can remain open if they are in a “yellow zone,” there is a mandatory testing requirement to keep schools open. The current guidance requires 20% of the in-person population to be tested over the two-week period immediately following the announcement of a yellow zone designation.

If after the first two weeks:

  • The results of testing reveal that the positivity rate among the 20% tested is lower than the yellow zone’s current 7-day positivity rate, the school can stop testing.
  • The results of testing reveal that the positivity rate among the 20% tested is higher than the yellow zone’s current 7-day positivity rate, the school will be required to continue testing 20% of in-person students, teachers and staff every two weeks, until it is lower than the surrounding areas.

What happens if our district is in an “orange” or “red” zone?

Schools located in orange and red micro-cluster zones will be required to conduct weekly testing. Schools in orange zones will be required to test 20% of in person students, faculty, and staff over the course of a month and schools in red zones will be required to test 30% of in person students, faculty, and staff over a month.

Will the district ask for parent consent before administering COVID tests?

Yes, the district will be sharing a consent form to allow students to be tested in school.

What if parents do not give consent for testing?

Although we hope to have consent from all families, it is not a requirement. If you have not given us your permission, your child will not be tested. 

What kind of COVID-19 test will be used?

The district will use the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card. This is a rapid test that provides results in about 15 minutes. It involves inserting a small swab, similar to a Q-Tip, into the front of the nose and then swabbing around the nostril. Please be assured that this is NOT the test that involves the long nasal swab. The test will be administered by our school nurse. Please note that the tests will be used for screening purposes only. Students or staff who may be showing symptoms should contact their healthcare provider to arrange for testing.

What happens if a test comes back positive?

Contacting the parent? Any students who test positive will be sent home and must be kept at home until meeting Albany County Department of Public Health criteria to return to school. Please contact your child’s doctor immediately to review the test results should your child test positive for COVID-19. 

Will remote teachers or students be required to be tested?

No, remote teachers or students are currently excluded from having to be tested since they are not conducting or receiving in-person instruction in the building.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our school nurse Carin D’Ambro or Principal Jennifer Cannavo.