MASSENA — Norwood-Norfolk Central School Superintendent James Cruikshank has prepared a list of frequently asked questions concerning potential microcluster testing of students, but he said some of the information dates back to questions he received before the school year began in September.
“A lot of questions came from initial conversations I was having with families when we reopened school. A lot of them were fearful we were going to test kids back then,” he said.
That wasn’t the case. But now, with the possibility that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could designate the Norwood-Norfolk area as a yellow microcluster zone if there was an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, they would be required to test 20% of in-person students and staff within two weeks. That would be approximately 200 tests.
“Coming into post-holiday, we’re seeing tests and positives across the region,” Mr. Cruikshank said.
But, unless they had consent from parents, the student would not be tested, but would still be allowed to come to school. Consent forms have been sent to families.
“I wouldn’t force a child into it. We would only test if we had parental consent,” Mr. Cruikshank said. “We’re trying to stay prepared. We do have some preliminary data. We’re very close to achieving 20% from the students, more so at some levels than others. We continue to request permission slips be signed and returned.”
He said, if the area is designated as a yellow microcluster zone, that might convince some parents to have their child take the test.
Once they have a final list of those who have volunteered to be tested, they will randomly select only the number of individuals needed to meet the 20% mandate. Mr. Cruikshank they’ve computed that to be 60 from the elementary school, 48 from the middle school and 52 from the high school. Those numbers include both children and adults who work with them.
If they’re not able to meet the 20% threshold through parental permissions and/or volunteers, they would have to suspend any in-person instruction.
Mr. Cruikshank said he has also heard questions about false positives that the in-school tests might produce. They would use the BanixNOW antigen test, which is a shallow nasal swab compared to the deep nasal swab associated with other COVID-19 tests. The results would be known within 15 minutes.
“It’s designed for screening purposes. We’re trying to take a snapshot. There could be potential false positives, which would impact not just the child, but the school,” he said.
If a child tested positive, he said they would immediately call the parents and have the student re-tested with their health care provider.