main content starts here

Reopening Update: COVID testing and contact tracing

Filed in District, District News by on August 10, 2020

Managing students or staff who may become ill at home or at school is an important part of the Bethlehem Central School District’s reopening plan. Information regarding how the district will handle each can be found below.

If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School

The District requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office. If there are several students waiting to see the school nurse, students must wait at least 6 feet apart. The District has designated areas to separate and isolate individuals with symptoms of COVID- 19 from others until they can go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on severity of illness. One area will be used to treat injuries, provide medications or treat chronic student illnesses, and the other area will be used for assessing and caring for students or staff presenting with suspected symptoms of COVID. Both areas will be supervised by an adult and have easy access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies.

The following are the locations of isolation areas within each school building:

  • Eagle Elementary School – Room 12 (Conference Room B)
  • Elsmere Elementary School – Room 9
  • Glenmont Elementary School – Room 29 (formerly Counseling Office)
  • Hamagrael Elementary School – Room 16
  • Slingerlands Elementary School – Room 18
  • Middle School – Nurse’s Office (pre-existing)
  • High School – Nurse’s Office (Left wing)

PPE requirements for school health office staff caring for sick individuals includes both standard and transmission-based precautions. In areas with moderate to substantial community transmission, eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shield) should be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a fit-tested N-95 respirator will be used, if available. If an N-95 respirator is not available, a surgical face mask and face shield will be used.

School health office cleaning will occur after each use of cots, bathrooms, and health office equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes). Health office equipment will be cleaned following manufacturers’ directions.

Disposable items will be used as much as possible (e.g., disposable pillow protectors, disposable thermometers, disposable thermometer sheaths or probes, disposable otoscope specula).

Students will be supervised in the isolation area while awaiting transport home and will be separated by at least 6 feet. Students will be escorted from the isolation area to their parent/guardian. Students or staff will be instructed to call their health care provider, or if they do not have a health care provider, to follow up with a local clinic or urgent care center. Information regarding COVID-19 will be provided to parent/guardian and staff as appropriate.

Return to School After Illness

The District will work in consultation with Albany County Department of Health and St. Peter’s Health Partners Slingerlands Pediatrics (District school physicians) on the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school.

This protocol shall include, at minimum:

  1. Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation
  2. Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result
  3. Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation

The District will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.

The District will work in coordination with Albany County Department of Health regarding individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus and who may be required to quarantine before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with Albany County Department of Health.

The District will follow CDC guidance, along with guidance provided by school physicians, and ACDOH on allowing a student or staff member to return to school after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

If a person is not diagnosed by a healthcare provider with COVID-19 they can return to school:

  • Once there is no fever, without the use of fever reducing medicines, and they have felt well for 24 hours;
  • If they have been diagnosed with another condition and have a healthcare provider written note stating they are clear to return to school.

If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a healthcare provider based on a test or their symptoms or does not get a COVID-19 test but has had the symptoms, they should not be at school and should stay at home until:

  • It has been at least ten days since the individual first had symptoms;
  • It has been at least three days since the individual has had a fever (without using fever reducing medicine); and
  • It has been at least three days since the individual’s symptoms improved, including cough and shortness of breath.

COVID-19 Testing

The District will comply with CDC guidance and not conduct COVID-19 testing or require testing of students or staff members. The decision of whether a test needs to be conducted should be determined by a healthcare provider or the local department of health. In the event that a large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the District administration will work with the Albany County Department of Health to secure appropriate testing protocol.

Contact Tracing

The District will notify the state and local health department immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the District.

Contact tracing is a public health function performed by local public health departments to trace all persons who had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Districts may assist with contact tracing by:

  1. Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members
  2. Ensuring student schedules are up to date
  3. Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited
  4. Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program

Based on data and recommendations provided by the Albany County Department of Health (ACDOH) regarding contact tracing, a decision to close an individual school building or the entire District will be made.

Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff should not try to determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from ACDOH.

For more information about how COVID-19 containment efforts will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.