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Ken-Ton school district addresses staff COVID vaccine status, student testing options

Superintendent Sabatino Cimato says 96% of teachers, 91% of support staff, and 100% of administrators have been vaccinated. But 65 people are not vaccinated.

KENMORE, N.Y. — COVID continues to pose major challenges for school administrators with children under age 12 still not eligible for any vaccine. 

2 On Your Side got an update on the vaccination and testing status in the large Ken-Ton School District.

Kenmore-Tonawanda Superintendent Sabatino Cimato was not available for an interview on Wednesday. But Tuesday night in the Board of Education meeting, he provided an update on the district's COVID situation. 

He started with the district's adult employees bearing in mind the state mandate that all must be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing. 

Superintendent Cimato says of the district's 1,532 employees, they have determined the status of 1,167, while 365 have apparently not yet responded. 

He says 96 percent of teachers, 91 percent of support staff, and 100 percent of administrators have been vaccinated. But from that initial survey response, 65 are not vaccinated.

So for those staffers not yet COVID immunized, weekly testing options including pharmacies are being worked out.

Then for Ken-Ton students, who again under age 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, other testing plans were worked out through the Erie County Department of Health.

Cimato says two student options are being phased in. First, surveillance or screening testing with a weekly random sample of 10 percent of students who have opted in with parental consent for such testing in each school building.

And then proximal testing for "proximity" with testing for all students who have opted in with parent permission if they are in a classroom in which a student has tested positive. 

That would not include students deemed to be close contacts within three feet of an infected student who must be quarantined per Erie County Health Policy. 

Cimato emphasized these points. "Now here's the thing: with both of these for students, OK, it is fully voluntary. But for staff, testing without vaccination is mandatory."     

Cimato summed up the student testing options this way: "Surveillance is more pre-emptive. Proximal is more reactive to prevent further spread."     

The one big question mark is how many parents will actually sign up their children for these voluntary testing programs. Obviously no one yet has a good answer on that. 

A spokesperson for the Erie County Health Department says it is expected that other districts will follow suit with similar student testing programs. But Superintendent Michael Cornell of the Hamburg Central Schools says his district, like many others, is still working out the testing for unvaccinated staff.