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Hewlett-Woodmere cases rise; on-site Covid testing considered


With nearly 30 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among students and staff in the Hewlett-Woodmere School District since Nov. 23, district officials sent a survey to parents focusing on the possibility of on-site rapid Covid-19 testing.

Parents were asked whether they would consent to having their child tested at the district’s five schools. The tests would be conducted by health care professionals, and parents or guardians would be permitted to accompany the children.

“At the suggestion of Dr. [Brian] Blinderman, the district’s medical director, we are in the process of contracting with Healthcare Logics, a group of physicians who conduct on-site Covid-19 testing through Northwell Labs,” Hewlett-Woodmere Superintendent Dr. Ralph Marino Jr. wrote in a Dec. 3 email. “All testing will be conducted at our school buildings by military physicians and technicians who will administer an oral swab PCR test to students.”

Marino added that if the district is designated a yellow zone by the state, a percentage of students and staff must be tested over a specified period of time for schools to remain open for in-person instruction.

Some district parents have offered their feedback to the survey. Rachel Neubia, who has a daughter in second grade at Ogden Elementary School and a daughter in first grade at the Franklin Early Childhood Center, said that any parent of child enrolled in in-person learning should be required to consent to testing.

“New York City is currently mandating testing like this, and I personally feel that it makes this whole unpleasant situation more black and white, with less room for all the gray situations that I keep hearing parents in this district complaining about,” Neubia wrote in an email. “Parents who don’t want to consent have another choice with the remote education offered by the district.”

Tara Woltman, who has two children at Hewlett Elementary School, explained why she would agree to on-site testing. “While I don’t agree with randomized testing, I believe that children need to be in school for mental stability, social growth and to be active,” Woltman wrote on Facebook. “Parents who work need to ensure economic stability for their families. That’s why I said yes.”

The positive tests reported the week of Nov. 29 included 15 students at Hewlett High School, nine at Woodmere Middle School, two students and a staff member at Hewlett Elementary and a staff member at the early childhood center.

They are not be permitted to return to the buildings for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, including at least 72 hours fever-free without medication. The Nassau County Department of Health advised that the buildings could remain open.

Marino theorized that the positive tests were the result of social gatherings at district residents’ homes. “As the positivity rate in our community continues to rise, we ask that you exercise extreme caution when permitting your children to host or attend such social events,” he wrote. “Please know that there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our students and staff.”

Both of Neubia’s children are attending school in person, and she said she hoped the buildings would remain open. “Remote learning for our youngest learners is extremely challenging, but realistically the increase in positive numbers directly increases the chances that schools will be closed,” she wrote. “I am aware that [Governor] Cuomo has placed priority on schools being open in person for special education and early learners and I’m sure our district [has] as well.”

Have an opinion on Covid testing school children? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.