At its first meeting of the new year, the Central High School District Board of Education passed two resolutions that will provide Covid-19 testing capabilities to students and staff should Bellmore-Merrick be designated as one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “micro-cluster” communities.
On Jan. 6, trustees approved respective agreements with ATC Testing and Screening Services and Healthcare Logics to administer PCR nasal swab tests on site in each of the district’s five schools. The tests will come at no cost to district, and the contracts also apply to Central’s four component elementary districts, according to Superintendent John DeTommaso.
A geographic area can be designated a yellow zone if it has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 3 percent for 10 days and has 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day average. Other factors include whether the spread has been caused by gatherings and week-to-week growth in hospital admissions.
Additionally, “If schools are in an area deemed a yellow zone, the state mandates you test 20 percent of all of the personnel in that school,” DeTommaso said at last month’s board meeting (see box). He also said he was confident that Bellmore-Merrick’s students, teachers and staff would be open to testing so each school can reach the 20 percent threshold.
“As soon as we started hearing about micro-cluster zones and the expectations of schools to test on site, we started doing our research,” said Assistant Superintendent Michael Harrington. “We all recognize that we want to keep our schools open, and we want to do it in the safest way.”
The district sent out surveys to identify people willing to get tested should the community fall into a yellow zone. The results determined that 85 percent of Central’s staff members would submit to testing on site, with another 10 percent providing results on their own, and 70 percent of Bellmore-Merrick families would allow their children to be tested on site, with another 15 percent providing off-site results, Harrington said.
Trained medical personnel from ATC and Healthcare Logics would set up designated areas in each building to conduct testing, which involves a non-invasive nasal swab of the lower half of the nostril. The PCR rapid test is considered the “most accurate,” Harrington said, and returns results within 48 to 72 hours.
Those willing to get tested will be required to fill out permission and insurance forms provided by the district ahead of time. Harrington said if a person or family does not have medical insurance, the districts will cover the cost from reimbursement from federal CARES Act funding, which provided a total $750,000 to Bellmore-Merrick schools via the Town of Hempstead.
“We’re cognizant of the fact that we’re moving closer to that Christmas/New Year’s surge,” DeTommaso said. “We will continue with monitoring cases and quarantines and paying close attention to what the next few days and weeks will bring.”
For more information about the Central District’s response to Covid-19, visit http://www.bellmore-merrick.k12.ny.us/district/coronavirus_information.