Private schools rolling through with COVID testing

“I’m feeling optimistic"
Posted at 5:16 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 18:26:53-05

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — As many public school districts in Erie County’s orange zone are still not ready to conduct COVID testing, private schools continue moving ahead with testing to get students back in the classroom.

Cardinal O’Hara High School in the Town of Tonawanda.

Cardinal O’Hara High School in the Town of Tonawanda is the latest school to test students, faculty and staff.

“I’m nervous ‘cause I really want to come back — I mean online school is easier, but you loose,” remarked Bethany Mandabille, freshman.

Bethany Mandabille, freshman, and her brother, Rhys, junior, arrived for their COVID tests.

Mandabille and her brother, Rhys arrived late Friday morning at the school for their COVID tests with hopes of returning for in-person learning Monday.

“I’m feeling optimistic, hoping we will be back in school on Monday. I’m, you know, surprised we're getting back so quickly,” noted Mandabille, junior.

Luke Martinez, O’Hara senior, arrived with his dad for his COVID test.

Luke Martinez, O’Hara senior.

“I’m happy about it because it means we can go back to class because I don't like the virtual school,” declared Martinez.

School parent Juan Martinez volunteers at the school four to five days a week. He also was going to be tested Friday.

Martinez was very pleased with the measures the school has taken since it reopened in September.

“Safety measures that they have put in place — students following the rules — I think it has helped and I think it has been a driving factor,” noted Martinez.

Students, faculty, staff and school volunteers arrived through out the day to be tested inside the school's auditorium.

“They come in at 15-minute increments. They go down into the aud, paperwork has already been filed out. The pharmacy representatives do the test and then they go home,” explained Renee Orr, school spokeswoman.

The school is teaming with Niagara Apothecary, a pharmacy in Niagara Falls, conducting and analyzing the testing.

Orr said students, staffers and volunteers will get a call at home if they're positive.

New York State eased testing rules earlier this week for orange and red zones. Schools no longer need to test 100-percent of students and staff. Now it's 20-percent once a month, still O’Hara decided to test it's entire population.

“But we wanted for this initial opening 100-percent testing so that we can see where we stand before Monday,” Orr said.

Meanwhile, leaders at larger public-school districts say they're waiting for a direct order from the state.

“It’s not that it's not official from the governor — but the governor directs the health department to create specific requirements for us and put them in writing and that's what districts are waiting for,” responded Matthew Bystak, superintendent, West Seneca Central School District.

Matthew Bystak, superintendent, West Seneca Central School District, in a Zoom interview.

Bystrak said his district is working on a testing plan. But for now, students will remain in all-remote learning until after the holidays.

St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute also in Tonawanda conducted testing on 100-percent of its school members earlier this week and reopened.

O’Hara has reported six COVID cases to the state's COVID Report Card.

But school leaders are hoping once they test 260 members of its school community, they will be able to return for in-person learning Monday.