LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WKBW) — There is a new way to keep kids in the classroom, and out of quarantine, and the rollout spans across dozens of districts in Western New York.
The "Test-to Stay" programs let students stay in school after a COVID exposure, as long as they are testing negative.
The Starpoint Central School District is ahead of the game in Niagara County, where an on-site COVID-19 lab helps expedite the process.
"It's been survival mode, is what we're in right now. Staffing is becoming an issue. We're kind of going day-to-day with that," Starpoint Central School District superintendent, Dr. Sean Croft said.
As of January 12, the district's New York State COVID-19 Report Card showed out of the nearly 3,000 student population, 449 have tested positive. Seventy-eight teachers and 44 staff members are also COVID positive.
"We thought last year was difficult. We had no idea. Last year, for example, in January, we had 39 positive cases throughout the entirety of January," Dr. Croft said.
As winter COVID cases continue to rise, the Starpoint Central School District is taking a proactive approach when it comes to keeping kids in the classroom.
It is all thanks to this on-site COVID lab.
"We learned a lot of lessons from last year. We know remote learning is not the best option, in terms of student learning. So, having students here. Keeping healthy students here is our number one goal this year," Dr. Croft said.
They have come up with a plan to catch COVID cases early, by testing symptomatic students and staff in house, using the lab.
The district is the first in Niagara County to have one.
"Kids during the day, they don't feel good, so they go down to the nurse of their own building. So, that nurse will then look at the schedule," Starpoint Central School District COVID testing lab nurse, Catherine Diaz said. "If they have a fever, they still have to be sent home for a 24-hour period."
There is an Abbott ID Now machine, which administers rapid PCR tests. It gives results in 10 minutes. The machine cost the district roughly $6,000 to buy directly from Abbott, according to Superintendent Croft.
The rapid antigen test gives test results within 15 minutes.
"If they're symptomatic, there are certain symptoms they're going to go home no matter what. If a student is nauseous, vomiting, if they have a fever, we're going to test them here. We're going to get an answer on COVID. They're still going home and we encourage them to contact their physician because it could be influenza, it would be something else. Strep throat has been going around," Superintendent Croft said.
It promises to be a game changer for families who previously needed to schedule tests on their own outside of school.
Diaz said, "It actually takes probably a week. I'm not even sure what it is to get into a Well Now, but this is the same test that they use at Well Now that they have to send out."
"What we were seeing at the time was a delay of two to three days and the staff or student trying to get a test outside of school. There's a financial burden there. Sometimes paying for a test. In order to return to school and a lot of the time, those tests were coming back negative. Students were losing instructional time, we were losing staff members," Superintendent Croft said.
Superintendent Croft said me the district is in the process of creating a test-to-stay program, like the one in Erie County.
Pending advisory from the Niagara County Department of Health, the program may start as early as next week.