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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – Onsite COVID Testing

Filed in Archive by on January 14, 2021

Onsite COVID Testing – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why is the school district planning to conduct COVID-19 testing on-site?

Regular testing of students and staff of between 10 and 20% of in-person students and staff has been recommended by the Albany County Department of Health as a mitigation tool that can help schools decide when they should remain open for in-person instruction and when they should be remote only. Many school districts in other parts of the state, and here in the Capital Region, are doing similar on-site COVID testing of students and staff.

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

New York State is providing school districts with COVID-19 rapid tests. Specifically, they will be providing 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.

Where will testing take place?

Testing will be available to K-5 families as part of drive-thru testing at our Transportation Department location at 82 Van Dyke Road. Drive-thru testing will take place by appointment only. The drive-thru testing is intended for students in grades K-5 so that a parent or guardian can accompany them. Older students, whose parents have granted consent, will be tested at school. Staff will be tested during the workday. More information about the testing schedule will be released to families the week of Jan. 25.

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.

When will this onsite testing begin?

Testing of staff has already begun. We expect that testing of students will begin the last week in January or the first week in February.

How do I consent to have my student(s) tested at school?

There is an online parent/guardian consent form for you to fill out for your student(s). This form was sent to you in a separate email on Wednesday, Dec. 30. Students will not be tested without parent/guardian consent.

Why is the rapid antigen test being used?

The rationale for using the rapid test instead of the PCR test is that testing will be done on students and staff who are asymptomatic. Rapid tests detect protein fragments specific to the Novel Coronavirus and are non-invasive for students & staff (ie: not deep sinus tests). PCR tests detect RNA (genetic material) that is specific to the virus and are the “deep sinus” variety, plus they have a longer turnaround time than the rapid test. The rapid test results are available in 15 minutes.

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 many people do you expect will be tested each week in Bethlehem?

In meeting the recommendation of the health department, the district’s goal is to test a minimum of 10 to 20% of in-person students and school staff over a one-month period. With our current in-person enrollment, this would mean testing approximately 425-950 individuals. The district has 1,000 test kits on hand and administrators plan to order more from the New York State Department of Health so regular onsite testing can continue.

How do you decide which students and staff to test?

Staff are able to volunteer for on-site testing on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students would only be chosen from the group of students whose parents/guardians have already consented. Availability and schedule will also be a consideration in deciding who to test to minimize any disruption to instruction.

How will I be notified if my child has been selected to be tested?

As with all important districtwide notifications, you will be contacted via email if you or your child is selected to be tested. Parents are encouraged to make sure that their contact information in the Aspen Parent Portal is up-to-date. If you need to update this information, please contact our district registrar Melissa Haas at mhaas@bethlehemschools.org.

Can I be present when my child is tested?

For students in grades K-5, yes. We will be providing drive-thru testing for parents who want to be present when their child is tested.

How can I help prepare my child for the test (especially for younger children)?

You should talk to your child about the testing and watch this video together. We encourage you to tell them that health professionals at school are going to do a test for the virus by rubbing a small cotton swab inside the front part of their nose. Let them know that the health professionals will need to wear special protective equipment to keep themselves and others safe during the testing process.  This will include a face mask, eye goggles or face shield, an outer gown, and gloves. 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 minutes so that the test can be done.  Then they can put their face covering back on. (Parents should also wear a face covering as they interact with the health professional during the testing procedure). Remind your child that it’s okay that the school performs this test and that it’s quick, safe, and gentle.

What if I prefer to get my child tested offsite?

You have the option to get your child tested by your health care provider or at any testing site. In order for those tests to count toward the district’s goal of testing 10-20% of students and staff, results need to be provided to your school nurse within a week. If it is your intention to test offsite, please notify the school and indicate when your child will be tested.

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. 

Can parents/guardians or family members get tested too?

No. Right now, we only have enough tests to accommodate 20% of our in-school population. 

What happens if a student tests positive?

If your child tests positive for COVID-19 you will be notified the same day by phone. You will be directed to contact your child’s healthcare provider to discuss the positive test results and the possible need for additional diagnostic testing. The district will also contact the Albany County Department of Health to report your child’s positive test result. Your child will need to remain at home 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 24-48 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. We understand that this may cause some children to feel uncomfortable. Our health professionals will ensure the testing is performed quickly, gently, and in a positive environment for all students.

For students and families of multilingual learners, will information be available in other languages? If so, how will this be arranged?

Please communicate with your child’s principal in advance of the testing if you wish to have any of the testing information provided in your family’s preferred language.

I have questions about this testing plan. Where can I get more answers?

You are encouraged to reach out to your child’s school nurse if you have questions regarding COVID-19 testing. You can also participate in the Superintendent Q & A Sessions, which will be held on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27.

What COVID-19 Testing Looks Like at BC