PENDLETON, NY (WKBW) — A Niagara County school district took a big leap forward to conduct its own rapid PCR tests for students and staff to avoid lengthy quarantine restrictions.
The Starpoint Central School District in Pendleton is renting a testing machine that provides what is consider the "gold standard" of COVID testing.
If a student has symptoms, a school nurse will evaluate them and send them to directly to a lab set up inside Starpoint Schools for a PCR test.
They will then find out in minutes if they are positive or negative for COVID.
“You're welcome,” stated Catherine Diaz, healthcare worker, taking an appointment call.
Inside an isolation room at Starpoint Middle School another call comes in to set up a COVID test for a student that's not feeling well.
“Some of them have cold symptoms and parents are stressed,” remarked Diaz.
The Starpoint School District is renting this Abbott ID PCR test machine. The PCR test is required for students with COVID symptoms.
Diaz works for Aveanna Healthcare, a national company, the district has contracted with to administer the test.
Nurses in the district's four school buildings will contact her when a child has symptoms.
“So, we all work together in getting the kids and even staff,” Diaz explained.
“The nurse evaluates them — says they're a good candidate for a COVID test — calls the parents to make sure the parent is okay with it and then we will refer that student to the COVID lab,” remarked Dr. Sean Croft, superintendent, Starpoint Central Schools.
Superintendent Croft says he decided the district should conduct its own testing so students with symptoms could find out quickly if they have COVID without having to wait several days for results.
“The problem was we were seeing between four and five days of lost instruction time and in many cases that student was negative,” noted Croft.
The machine uses cartridges filled with a serum. Dr. Croft demonstrated, getting his nose swabbed for the test and within about 10-15-minutes he received a negative result.
Croft says the district has already had 140-covid cases this school year, with high school cases spiking earlier this school year and now cases appear to be rolling through younger students, ages 8 to 11-years old.
“It’s kind of hitting one of our buildings,” said Croft.
Croft says he spent more than $10,000 for the testing and is tapping into the federal stimulus money to pay for it.
“We think it's important. It's providing a service to our parents and I think it's great use of federal stimulus money for the pandemic,” Croft noted.
“And with kids (tests) being sent out, they're really busy — CVS is like two, three, four days maybe to get a test, so being in here — it takes three minutes, maybe to warm up and then ten minutes and we know if they have COVID or not,” Diaz replied.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, Starpoint tested 15 students and staff with two positive COVID cases, but avoiding quarantine for other students.
“It’s not that three or four days of trying to find an appointment, waiting for test results — logging into some system, waiting — to see if your child's test results are coming in. We’re calling 20-minutes later and letting them know,” reflected Croft. “That's been a huge relief for some parents.”