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Districts in ‘yellow zone’ need COVID testing answers

"We're not a medical institution"
Posted at 6:24 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 18:24:33-05

ELMA, NY (WKBW) — “If government wants to mandate they should be supplying not only the test, but the personnel,” declared David Mossman, Iroquois Central School parent.

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David Mossman, Iroquois Central School parent.

Some school families are sounding off against the state’s new mandate to have school districts within Erie County’s ‘yellow zone’ test students and staff for COVID-19.

Districts are struggling to prepare to conduct weekly testing.

“We're not a medical institution and having to step into that avenue on a very short notice is what's causing the challenges right now,” remarked Douglas Scofield, superintendent, Iroquois Schools in Elma.

School districts in the county’s yellow zone are required to randomly test up to 20-percent of students and staffers.

But Scofield said this has created a huge challenge for his district.

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Douglas Scofield, superintendent, Iroquois Schools in Elma.

“When the tests are coming? What staffing we're going to need to administer the test and those are the very challenging pieces we are facing right now,” explained Scolfield.

Parents and school families are also asking a lot of questions to districts about the mandatory COVID testing.

Some school parents say they do not want their child tested in school.

“Personally, our family's not comfortable with that — we feel, if we need to have our child tested, we'll take him to a doctor to have that done,” Mossman said.

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Iroquois Schools students leaving school Friday.

Mossman’s son is a senior at Iroquois High School. He said schools are not “equip” to conduct the testing.

The superintendent says nearly half of the families he has surveyed, 41-percent, are not in favor of the schools conducting the COVID testing.

Scofield said he conducted the survey to find out a parent’s comfort zone with the testing.

“And for the younger children — what would be access for parents when that test is administer,” explained Scofield.

But the superintendent said 59-percent of parents indicated they would be okay with the testing, still he noted parents want information, something he can not provide at this time.

Erie County legislator Joseph Lorigo sent out a Tweet Friday, voicing his concerns about the school testing as both a lawmaker and parent.

“When you think of parents of elementary kids, they want to make sure if that testing is happening they’re going to be there with their children,” said Lorigo. “My son is six years old — he had to have a COVID test — I was here with him for it. Fortunately he was negative, but it was a painful experience for him.”

Lorigo said the county should be helping districts.

But Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the state will be assisting the districts and providing the tests for schools.

Lorigo said schools have been “left out in the cold.”

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Erie County legislator Joseph Lorigo in Zoom interview.

“It’s not fair for them. When the state and county have been at the forefront of testing and dealing with this pandemic, we should play a role in helping these school districts figure out what they should do when it comes to this mandated testing,” remarked Lorigo.

Friday, in a conference call with reporters, Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked about schools. He said “the infection rate in schools is not the problem”.

“The problem is not coming from the schools. It’s coming from the bars, the restaurants, the gyms and the living room family spread,” Cuomo responded.

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Iroquois School students.

The schools are now waiting for a directive from the state for receiving the tests and guidelines.

But some districts are not waiting, Frontier and Cheektowaga Central are already set to return to all remote learning next week.

Frontier Schools superintendent Richard Hughes said he also had parents voicing concerns saying the will not “consent” to having their children tested in schools.

“If hey are saying no to the test — do we have to not let them in school? All these implications that we’re going to keep studying,” Hughes stated.

Hughes said his district would be required to test approximately 1,000 students and staffers a week.

Scofield said Iroquois would be required to test about 500 students and staffers a week.

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Iroquois Central School District.

“The schools districts will be doing a tremendous amount of testing — a lot more than the Erie County Department of Health. That’s quite a lot,” replied Scofield.

The Iroquois superintendent says he will be announcing his decision to school families on Monday.