Orange zone school testing changed to 20% monthly: ‘This is manageable’

Coronavirus

BRIGHTON, N.Y. (WROC) — On Monday, Governor Cuomo announced changes to the school zone testing requirements. School officials are still waiting on written guidance from the state, but they said they are expecting the 100% testing requirement to change after listening to the Governor’s press conference Monday.

Previously, schools in the orange and red zones had to test 100% of students and staff when entering a new zone and test 25% each week following. Now, to remain open, schools in the orange zone only have to test 20% per month, and red zone schools have to test 30% per month.

Brighton Central School District began testing on Monday and will continue Tuesday and Wednesday. They tested 1,497 people and five were positive, coming out to a .33% infection rate.

Superintendent Kevin McGowan said it was tough trying to get to 100% consent for testing. He said they started at 66% consent last week and are up to 92% this week. McGowan said the spread isn’t happening in schools and the 100% requirement just didn’t make sense.

“We’re happy to be part of the program so we can remain open but it’s important to remember that at school there have been no transmissions of COVID known to us and our numbers remain very, very low in the school population,” McGowan said Monday morning, before the Governor’s announcement. After the announcement Monday, he tweeted, in part, “We are grateful. Guidance is key to understanding the adjusting our approach.”

Kathleen Graupman is the president of the Monroe County Superintendents Council and the Greece schools superintendent. Three of her schools in Greece also fall under the orange zone. She said only 60% of families in those three schools consented to testing.

Under the new guidelines, she said she will test 5% of students per week. Graupman said while she doesn’t have anything in writing from the state yet, the way she understands the new guidelines, schools moving into a new zone will not have to close down while they administer testing. She said she’s glad the state listened to the concerns of educators and this model is more manageable.

“The more we can keep things consistent, the better. This plan, which I’m hoping we can sustain and continue to do, makes sense. It’s doable and the idea of not having to disrupt families is a huge win in my opinion,” Graupman said.

Both the Brighton district and the orange zone schools in the Greece district plan to reopen on Thursday. Brighton said Monday’s announcement won’t affect its schedule this week; they will offer drive through testing as planned and all students will be remote until Thursday.

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