Schools launch COVID-19 testing to return to in-person learning

“We tested over 500 folks"
Posted at 6:00 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 18:03:33-05

TOWN OF TONAWADA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Some schools in Erie County’s orange zone are testing students for COVID-19 this week with hopes of restarting in-person learning.

St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in the town of Tonawanda began testing Monday.

St. Joe's High School students line up for COVID testing.

The high school students arrived in the hallway late Wednesday morning to check-in on the third day of rapid testing for faculty, staff and students.

“We tested over 500 folks,” said Christopher Fulco, president.

Out of those more than 500-tests so far, only one was positive.

St. Joe’s had 14 cases and closed last month, but reopened just before the orange zone pushed them back into remote learning.

School leaders are planning to resume in-person learning Thursday.

Student receives rapid test in St. Joe's gym Wednesday.

The school gym, normally used for sporting and school events, has been transformed into a clinic for COVID testing.

Freshman Salvatore Falsone says he wasn't nervous to be tested and is ready to return to the classroom.

“It’s a pretty good feeling because I honestly thought we would be out for months like the last time, but we're looking up from here so that's a positive thing to me,” Falsone explained.

School nurse Rosanne Urbanski said no result are given on the spot.

School nurse Rosanne Urbanski.

“I call only those that would be positive that same evening. If it's a negative test, then they do not get a call,” Urbanski said.

The state eased testing rules earlier this week for orange and red zones.

“We are a little frustrated that the goal posts keep changing,” Fulco stated.

Christopher Fulco, St. Joe's president.

Fulco says the new mandate makes it easier for future testing of just 20-percent of all students, faculty and staff once a month.

But for now, everyone at St. Joe’s is getting tested.

“We decided the safest possible environment for Thursday would be to continue with our testing — test 100-percent of faculty, students and staff,” Fulco noted.

Urbanski is pleased the state eased the testing from one a week, to once a month.

Rapid tests schools are using for COVID testing.

“We can get our students back to school not only here at St. Joe’s, but in the districts — it’s much more doable, than what the mandates originally required,” Urbanski responded.

The testing kits are provided to schools through the New York State Department of Health.

The school is partnering with the Visiting Nurses Association to help with testing free of charge.

“They’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts — to keep our faculty staff and students safe,” Fulco remarked.

COVID test card.

Urbanski said volunteers are key to making the testing work.

“I’ve had 20-volunteers. Ten parents all with medical backgrounds as well as ten school nurses that volunteered their time to be testers,” described Urbanski.

Mount St. Mary Academy, also in the town of Tonawanda, completed testing Tuesday.

Cardinal O’Hara, in Tonawanda, will test on Friday.

The Alden Central School District is also set up for testing on site.