The Scarsdale School District announced Wednesday, Dec. 2, that it had reached an agreement with Sovereign Labs, a division of Sovereign Health, to provide COVID-19 testing for students and staff.
Such testing would begin if this area became a zone with a rate of COVID infection that, according to the state’s new micro-cluster strategy for containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, would require school-based testing.
In response to the new zoning strategy announced in November, the Scarsdale School District applied to become a “limited-service lab” and also sought contracts with outside vendors to provide testing for the district.
“Both approaches have pros and cons,” Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman wrote in an email to the community Dec. 2, announcing the new contract with Sovereign.
Under the terms of the contract, Sovereign will collect PCR saliva tests and analyze them in its genetic lab in New Jersey. The contract also stipulates that health insurance would cover the testing at no cost for covered individuals, and the district plans to cover the cost of testing for those who are not covered by insurance, according to Hagerman’s message.
Hagerman said test results will be shared with the district and sent directly to staff members/families, typically within 72 hours, which is the time it takes to test, ship, analyze and provide results.
Families and staff members will be asked to provide consent for the testing, should it become necessary.
“Since thresholds of testing are required for schools to remain open, it is important that there is broad cooperation between the District and the school community on this front,” Hagerman wrote. “New York State is adjusting the requirements for micro-cluster testing, and, depending on that outcome, consent for testing may become a requirement for continued in-person learning.”
Hagerman noted there are “many logistics to iron out,” but the new testing protocol may help the schools stay open despite increased community spread.
K-2 full-time, in-person learning
Hagerman also reported that the first week of full-time, in-person learning for kindergarten students through second graders, which began Nov. 30, was going well.
“Despite a rainy start on Monday, students are adjusting to their new routines and schedules. This would not have been possible without the careful preparation and planning on the part of our teachers, administrators, and staff,” Hagerman wrote, adding “Individual schools will continue to refine and adjust aspects of this on-going transition as needed. Changes will continue to be communicated to parents via building leadership teams.”
More COVID-19 cases reported
On Dec. 2, Heathcote received a report of one positive COVID-19, but its exposure was not school-related, so the school didn’t have to shift to a full-remote mode; then, on Dec. 3 two more cases were reported, also nonschool related.
Heathcote’s K-2 students had been working remotely on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 due to staff being quarantined, but were able to return to school Dec. 2.
Also on Dec. 2, a positive case was reported by Scarsdale High School, but health officials determined no additional quarantining of students or staff was necessary. On Dec. 3, a report of a new case led to quarantine directives for staff and students who had been in contact with the affected person.
Fox Meadow School reported on Nov. 30 two students were diagnosed with COVID-19 and quarantined.
On Nov. 29, Edgewood School reported a staff member tested positive, and students and staff who had been in contact with that person were told to quarantine.
Also on Nov. 29, a report was made that one Scarsdale Middle School student had tested positive but contact tracing was not necessary.
Similarly, a positive case reported via Greenacres School on Nov. 28, but contact tracing and quarantine were not deemed necessary.
In his letter to the community, Hagerman noted the CDC issued new guidance to reduce the time required to quarantine from 14 days to 10 days (or seven days with a negative test) if one comes in contact with COVID-19. However, it was noted, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) still requires a 14-day quarantine for anyone in contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19.
According to Hagerman’s email message, the NYSDOH has jurisdiction over public schools and the district will continue to require 14-day quarantines. If the NYSDOH adjusts its timelines, he said the district stated it would change its practices and inform the community about the modifications.