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BCHS student COVID testing begins Feb. 8

Filed in Archive, BCHS by on February 4, 2021

If your student is chosen for onsite COVID-19 testing at BCHS, you will receive the following notification by email 1-2 days prior to the scheduled testing. Testing is expected to begin on Monday, Feb. 8. Not all students will be tested and those selected will only be selected if they have a consent form on file.

Dear Parent/Guardian:

Your child has been selected for rapid COVID testing on (date/time) in the BCHS Fitness Center. The Fitness Center is located on the Delaware Ave side of the school. Students should enter through Gym C (this entrance to the left of the Fitness Center as you face the building). The testing is free. Your child does not need to bring anything to the Fitness Center except their student ID.

Only students with a consent form on file will be tested. School nursing staff will be administering the non-invasive nasal swab test. The test takes approximately 5 minutes. If your child is exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 on the day of testing, your child can not be tested at school. Instead, contact your healthcare provider.

For health and safety purposes, students at the high school will be tested on days they are not scheduled to be in school (for instance, if your child is scheduled to be in-person on A day, they will be tested on a B day). The testing procedure is scheduled during your child’s lunch period. 

A parent or guardian will have to bring their child to school for the test, or if your child has a car, your child can drive to the appointment. No carpooling is allowed. Parents are not allowed to accompany their child inside the school. 

There is no waiting area. Students will leave the building after being tested. If a student tests positive, you will receive a phone call from the school nurse. If a student tests negative, you will receive the test results by email within 24-48 hours of the test.

If your child can not make this appointment, please contact Rhonda Bohl by email at rbohl@bethlehemschools.org or by phone at 518-439-4921. We will work with your family to reschedule, if possible. 

All information regarding the testing process can be found below. Please contact the school if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

David Doemel, Jr.

Principal

On-site COVID Testing at BCHS

What test will be used and who will administer the tests?

New York State has provided the school district Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test, which will be administered by school nurses to students for whom we have received prior parent/guardian consent. The test involves inserting a small swab, like a Q-Tip, into the lowermost portion of the nostril. This is a quick nasal swab test of both nostrils and is NOT the deep swab nostril test that is performed at medical facilities and other testing sites. More information about the BinaxNOW test can be found here.

Why are you not testing my child on a day they are scheduled to be in school?

We have set up an isolated area at the perimeter of the school (Fitness Center) to perform testing. For health and safety reasons, if a student should test positive, we do not want the student to return to class pending results. Though test results take only 15 minutes, we have limited trained staff members who can perform the test, process the test, record the results and monitor students who have been tested in a waiting area. By asking parents to bring students to the school, they can access the Fitness Center directly from an outside entrance and return home after the test. Parents will be notified as soon as possible the same day if a student tests positive. This information can then be discussed at home with your child.

What if I no longer give consent for my child to be tested?

It is not a requirement for your child to be tested. Contact Rhonda Bohl in the main office by email at rbohl@bethlehemschools.org or by phone at 518-439-4921.

Why is the rapid antigen test being used?

The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Test Card is a rapid antigen test that detects specific proteins on the surface of the virus. They are a point-of-care diagnostic test which means that they are obtained and analyzed at the same site, (in this case, the school), instead of being sent out to a laboratory, which would require a longer turnaround time. The BinaxNOW test results are available in 15 minutes.

A molecular (PCR or polymerase chain reaction) test detects the virus’s genetic material. These tests require a more complex technology to get results, and it usually takes a day or two to get those test results (depending on lab capacity, results may take up to a week).  Schools are unable to do PCR testing.  Antigen tests are very specific for the virus, but are not as sensitive as molecular tests. This means that a positive result is highly accurate, but a negative result does not rule out infection.

What if my child has symptoms of COVID-19? Will they be able to be tested?

No. The rapid antigen test used at BC will not be used as a diagnostic tool. Students will be screened for symptoms prior to testing. Parents of students who are exhibiting symptoms are urged to contact their child’s health care professional for further evaluation and possible diagnostic testing. Students who have family members who are symptomatic and are awaiting COVID diagnostic test results are urged to stay home.

Is there a cost for students or staff being tested on-site?

No. All costs associated with the in-district testing will be covered by the state and district. If you choose to get a COVID-19 test on your own through a different medical provider, you would be responsible for any cost.

How long is the testing process expected to take?

The entire process of explaining the test to the child and then performing the swab test generally takes only a few minutes.

Where will testing take place?

At the BCHS Fitness Center. The Fitness Center is located on the Delaware Ave side of the school. Students should enter through Gym C (this entrance to the left of the Fitness Center as you face the building).

Why is the district testing students for COVID-19?

There is no mandate in place that requires the Bethlehem Central School District to begin testing. However, the district plans to test between 10-20% of students and staff to provide additional data for district decision-making and to have an additional tool for mitigation of the spread of the virus. 

How do you decide which students and staff to test?

Students are chosen randomly from the group of students whose parents/guardians have already consented. However, availability and schedule is also a consideration in deciding who to test to minimize any disruption to instruction.

How can I help prepare my child for the test)?

You should talk to your child about the testing and watch this video together. Let them know that health professionals at school are going to do a test for the virus by gently rotating a swab 5 times or more against the lower nasal wall and then slowly removing it from the nostril.  Using the same swab, the sample collection will be repeated in the other nostril. Please let your child know that they will need to wear their face covering for the testing procedure and will take it off for a few seconds so that the test can be done.  

If I do not consent to testing, will my student be forced to switch to full remote instruction?

No, your child can continue to be part of the in-person learning model without participating in the onsite testing.

What happens if a student tests positive?

If your child tests positive for COVID-19 a nurse will contact a parent promptly by phone. The nurse will also contact the Albany County Department of Health to report your child’s positive test result.  Albany County Department of Health will follow up with you on your child’s test result. The school nurse will also provide you with information on isolation and quarantine protocols for your review until Albany County Department of Health is able to speak with you. The nurse will encourage you to discuss your child’s positive test result with your child’s healthcare provider. Your child will need to remain out of school until they are cleared to return to school per Albany County Department of Health regulations.

Will families of students who test negative be provided with those test results? If so, how long will it be until those results are received?

Parents of students who test negative will be emailed within 24 hours of their child’s test.

For older students who are tested during the school day, can parents accompany their children during the testing?

Unfortunately, no. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 being introduced into the building, parents of secondary students will not be able to accompany their children during the test. Our health professionals will ensure the testing is performed quickly, gently, and in a positive environment for all students.

I have questions about the COVID plan. Where can I get more answers?

You are encouraged to reach out to your child’s school if you have any questions.