Ontario County schools begin rapid, on-site COVID testing at schools: ‘We’re really excited’

Coronavirus

VICTOR, N.Y. (WROC) — Schools in Ontario County are making it easier for children to stay in class if they test negative for COVID-19. 

In the past week, districts have started on-site, rapid PCR testing at schools for kids and staff members.

Last year if a child had COVID-like symptoms while at school, they’d often be sent home for days, sometimes weeks. This new testing option could change that. 

The Victor Central School District has been one of the first to roll out the new testing. In about a week, they already had dozens of staff members and students participate. 

“We’ve had over 80 tests administered of students and staff, primarily students. And you know, a large majority of them were able to stay in school because they were negative,” said Tim Terranova, the Superintendent of the Victor Central School District. 

The tests come as a blessing to the district after they had to quarantine more than 200 students last month due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The tests will now allow students who test negative to go back to class, instead of going home to quarantine.

“Last year, what we would have to do if something somebody had symptoms, it was assumed that they were COVID and they would have to be out until for 10 days,” said Mary Beer, the Public Health Director for Ontario County. 

“What we didn’t see last year but what we are seeing this year, we have seen some school transmission. So that also helps us to keep a class rather than having to quarantine a whole class, that can test that class and keep the kids in school. So they may have been exposed, but they can continue to test them to make sure that nobody’s asymptomatic and again, spreading it around,” she added. 

The 15 minute tests are provided by Ontario County through a state grant. Districts have hired a nurse to administer and coordinate the testing in nurses offices. 

“We’ve purchased the machine for them and we train them on how to do that. So that if a child comes into school and they’re having some symptoms, they can test them and say, ‘Oh, it’s not COVID.’ And then they would go through their regular processes as to whether or not a child can stay or not. For example, if they have a fever, they shouldn’t be in school anyway,” Beer said. 

School officials say there are a lot of benefits to this testing. 

For one, more students are able to continue with in-person learning if they test negative. But it also keeps parents from having to switch up their schedules in order to stay home with kids awaiting test results. 

“It certainly sets our teachers and staff up for success because they see the kids every day and the kids are able then to do their work on a daily basis, and our teachers get to know them, both their learning needs and their social emotional needs at a much greater level,” Terranova said. 

The testing also allows positive cases to be caught quicker, meaning there’s less risk of the virus spreading. 

“If we screen people who’ve been exposed who normally would be quarantined and we actually find a positive case, that’s a much quicker find then if we would have sent them home and two days later, three days later, they would have exhibited symptoms. So if we catch them quicker, we can deal with it quicker, and hopefully minimize the number of students or staff that it spreads to,” Terranova said. 

PCR tests have also been harder to find for families looking for a rapid test. School officials hope having these free tests at school, will bring families a peace of mind. 

“If they have symptoms in school, or like I said they need to be theoretically quarantined, we can do the testing right here. It’s no cost to the parent or the student, the state is actually paying for this,” Terranova added. 

Victor Central School District says they are also working on providing testing over the weekends for kids involved in extracurricular activities, like sporting events or theatre. 

All students who are tested at Ontario County Schools have to have parental permission. If they have been exposed to COVID-19, they will continue to be tested in school until their exposure period is over. 

This week, Monroe County opened a PCR drive-thru testing option at the Fleet Center for students. The county says they are working on making this testing available at schools too. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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