Nov. 24 Parent Update: “Yellow Zone” preparations and consent for school-based COVID-19 testing

You may be following the developments in Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, as their communities are entering “Yellow, Orange, and Red Zones” due to a rise in COVID-19 illness. These designations have a direct impact on schools within the zones. Fortunately, our area has not been designated as a Yellow Zone …. yet.

Here in Glens Falls, our topmost goal remains to stay safely OPEN for the in-person instruction, meal service, social connection, and emotional support that our students need.

We need your help to reach this goal in three specific ways right now:

  • Please don’t travel for Thanksgiving or other holiday gatherings
  • Keep your distance and wear face coverings at all times outside your home—particularly if children are playing together in the neighborhood
  • Review the NYS requirements for COVID Cluster Zones, and consider giving your consent for school-based COVID-19 testing, if Glens Falls is designated as a “Yellow Zone” in the near future.

Superintendent Paul Jenkins has been in near-constant contact with Warren County Public Health as positive cases rise in our surrounding communities. Thanks to updates in guidance from NYSDOH, and new resource allocation from WCPH, Glens Falls City Schools are now creating a plan to use rapid COVID-19 testing on site, as a way to test 20 percent of all in-person students and staff to preserve in-person instruction through a Yellow Zone designation.

Under our developing plan, the district will be able to conduct our own testing under Warren County Public Health’s laboratory certification. Our school nurses will handle rapid testing of students and staff as county health officials offer technical support and advice.

If you consent, your child may be randomly selected to receive a free diagnostic test for the COVID-19 virus (the BinaxNOW and/or the Abbott ID Now COVID-19 rapid test) that will be administered by our Middle School and Sports Nurse, Tracy Webster, RN. The testing process will involve inserting a small swab, similar to a Q-Tip, into the front of the nose. This is the simple, quick, shallow nasal swab test. Results are available in 15 minutes.

WATCH this video of Mr. Jenkins, Finnegan, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Webster, and seventh-grader Zachary as they demonstrate the swabbing process for these comfortable, easy rapid tests.

The yellow zone would trigger a requirement that districts test a random 20 percent of on-site students and staff to gauge the level of infection in a school. Widespread testing of the population identifies those who are infected, but asymptomatic, before they can infect others. If the school’s positive rate is lower than that in the surrounding county, it can remain open.

We would anticipate this to be the case at GFSD, as schools and classrooms have not been found to be sources of significant virus spread. Again, we thank our students and staff for wearing face masks and keeping distanced throughout the day, and we thank our custodial staff for their repetitive cleaning of bathrooms and handrails, plus their nightly spray of every classroom with bleach-alternative disinfectant.

Once your child tests, they will not be tested again at school until all consented students have been tested. Testing is not mandatory, and nobody will be excluded from school because they choose not to be tested. However, we ask parents to consider that if we do not have consent to test a unique 20% of students and staff while in the Yellow Zone, we will need to move to fully remote learning. In the event that positivity rates go down and our area exits the Yellow Zone, testing would end.

To be clear, to be designated as a Yellow Zone, Warren County’s seven-day infection rate must be 3.5% or higher for 10 consecutive days. Warren County’s current (11/24/20) seven-day infection rate is 1.2%. Warren County is NOT in a Yellow Zone right now.

Please read through the testing consent form and submit it by Tuesday, December 1st. This effort will allow us to remain open as long as it is both feasible and safe to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving!