Test to Stay on hold in Erie County

“Please listen to the superintendents"
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 18:20:08-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Test to stay at school districts across Erie County has been put on hold.

The Erie County Health Department (ECDOH) postponed a planned meeting with school superintendents Wednesday saying it needs more time to review changes by the state health department regarding new isolation and quarantine guidance.

This delay has left some school superintendents deeply disappointed.

Adam Stoltman, superintendent, Alden Central School District & Jon MacSwan, superintendent, Cleveland Hill Union Free School District, in a Zoom.

“It was disappointing to hear that the meeting had been canceled,” declared Jon MacSwan, superintendent, Cleveland Hill Union Free School District.

“Incredibly disappointing that it is going to be delayed again,” remarked Adam Stoltman, superintendent, Alden Central School District.

Both Stoltman and MacSwan say they are surprised the ECDOH pulled the plug on a meeting Wednesday to help districts begin to implement test to stay.

At Tuesday's COVID update Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said they were ready for the meeting to share a protocol with the all the districts.

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Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein at Tuesday's COVID briefing.

“We’re gong to talk about the participation requirements in the program and then we're going to talk about how the schools order test kits from us and collect them and so they can start their way on Test to Stay program,” Dr. Busrtein noted.

The county implemented a Test to Stay pilot program last month in the Grand Island School District leaving other school district leaders hopeful they could begin the program this week.

The county health department tells me it put the brakes on the meeting after learning theNew York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) updated isolation and quarantine guidanceTuesday night and in a statement, the county says “we have postponed our planned meeting with schools to give our epidemiology team time to review.”

But superintendents tell me now they are forced to delay the start of test to stay.

Jon MacSwan, superintendent, Cleveland Hill Union Free School District.

“That's been a common question we've had from parents is when can we start doing and implementing the test to stay program here at Cleveland Hill,” MacSwan noted.

Adam Stoltman, superintendent, Alden Central School District.

“We were very optimistic and hopeful that we'd be able to engage in a conversation a two way dialogue, which is not what's happened in the past, we’ve attended these meetings and we've been placed on mute,” described Stoltman.

But in Niagara County, a different story.

Inside a Niagara Falls City School classroom on days students held in-person learning.

Niagara Falls City School Superintendent Mark Laurrie says he has an agreement on protocols and is ready to begin Test to Stay January 17.

However, on December 23 the state health department also made an adjustment to Test to Stay saying a student must be exposed to COVID in school.

“Isn't that a big change from coming in from the outside world with a COVID exposure?” Buckley asked.

Niagara Falls City School Superintendent Mark Laurrie.

“It is a big change and it's also one I don't think we will every be able to prove with certainty. None of us are epidemiologists nor will we ever take the time to trace back the original roots of where this COVID might have come from,” Laurrie explained.

For now, the superintendents in Erie County are hoping the health department quickly resets their meeting, but with a winter storm predicated to hit parts of the region late Wednesday and Thursday, they’ve already been told by the county that it won’t be held on Thursday.

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Alden High School students now back for all in-school learning.

“What's your message to Erie County,” Buckley asked Stoltman and MacSwan.

“We’re available to meet tomorrow. Our superintendents group, at least in Erie 1, has a scheduled meeting already schedule,” Stoltman responded.

“Please listen to the superintendents. We don’t have the medical answers — but we are willing to be a partner and help smooth some of these out,” replied MacSwan.