Q&A: COVID-19 testing and microcluster colored zones

Related post: Explaining color-coded zones for COVID-19 ‘microclusters’

Why is the district preparing to test students and staff for COVID-19?

Based on current trends, it appears possible that our area will be part of one of the state’s designated zones (Yellow, Orange or Red) based on the prevalence of COVID-19. Current guidelines call for schools to test a percentage of students and staff members over a given time period if they would like to remain open for in-person instruction. Schools could be allowed to remain open depending how positivity rates of on-site students and staff compare with rates in the greater community. Our goal is to remain open for in-person instruction for our students.

How will we know if the district is in a designated yellow, orange or red micro-cluster zone?

A: If DCS is placed into a micro-cluster zone, the district will use existing internal and external communications channels to notify staff, students and families with as much advance notice as possible. Families will be notified with a text and email. If you do not receive texts and emails from DCS, please contact the main office of your child’s school to update your contact information. View a map of COVID hot spot zones by address.

What happens if our district is placed in a yellow zone?

Schools can remain open if they are placed into a “yellow zone” but there is a mandatory weekly testing requirement to keep schools open. The current guidance requires 20% of the in-person population to be randomly tested on a bi-weekly basis. If the testing parameters and/or capacity cannot be met, school building(s) will be required to close for in-person classes and will pivot to remote instruction. 

Will teachers/administrators/staff report to work if we are in a yellow zone?

A: Yes, there is no prohibition on staff reporting, other than abiding by the district’s current COVID-19 safety and health guidance (wearing masks, participating in daily health screenings, maintaining and encouraging a social distance where possible, etc.).

What happens if our district is placed in an orange or red zone?

If the district is placed into an orange or red zone, we will pivot to remote instruction only. 

How will individuals be randomly selected for COVID-19 testing?

Students and staff will be assigned random numbers using a random number generator and then sorted into five groups representing 20% of the district’s in-person population. Group number 1 will be the students and staff tested in the first week required. Group numbers 2-5 will be students and staff tested in the corresponding weeks of required testing. 

How will families, faculty and staff be notified if they are randomly selected to be a part of the random testing population?

The district will communicate to each randomly selected group prior to the week of their testing though email. Parents and staff members are asked to complete a testing consent form now, in advance of any zone designation and return it to the nurse as soon as possible. Please note that we would not conduct any testing without advance notice.

Where will the district’s testing sites be located?

Testing will be conducted in each nurse’s office. 

Can I be present while my child is tested?

Yes, we want students and their parents to be as comfortable as possible.

Will remote teachers or students be required to be tested?

No, remote teachers or students are currently excluded from having to be tested since they are not conducting or receiving in-person instruction in the building.

What kind of COVID-19 test will be used?

The tests are non-invasive, rapid screening tools. All test takers (or parents, in the case of students) will be asked to complete a consent form prior to testing. Parents and staff members are asked to complete a testing consent form now, in advance of any zone designation and return it to the nurse as soon as possible. Please note that we would not conduct any testing without advance notice. There will be no cost to families for these tests. 

How often would my child be tested?

A different group is tested each month, so unless current guidance changes, the most an in-person learner would be tested would be once every few months.

What happens if a student does not consent to having a COVID-19 test?

If a student will not consent to having a COVID-19 test, they will transition to remote instruction and will not be able to attend school for in-person while the district is in designated micro-cluster or precautionary zone. 

How will testing results be shared?

Individual results for the non-invasive, short-swab nasal tests are read 15 minutes after the test is administered. Negative results will be conveyed to parents by email. Positive results will be communicated by phone immediately. Test results will be shared with the NYS Department of Health through a secure portal.