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State presses for home COVID testing option with schools coming back from holiday break

The state, counties, and districts are working on testing programs. The plan to is provide millions of antigen, take-home tests to parents in the next several days.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With COVID complications affecting so many decisions, New York State, local counties, and school districts are all trying to make sure there is a seamless return to school, which many feel is crucial for kids despite that spike in COVID cases.

We saw the struggle to get kids back to school in the summer and fall with plenty of decisions to make. Now realizing the chance of exposure for children with holiday family gatherings and other events and the political will to keep schools open, there's some timely pressure to make it work.

A Tuesday conference call between Gov. Kathy Hochul and some leaders of the state's 731 school districts signaled the governor's purpose to keep schools open. And again, it includes the plan to provide millions of antigen, take-home tests over the next several days or so for parents to check their kids.

Hamburg superintendent and Erie Niagara Superintendents Association president Michael Cornell and other school leaders were on that call to understand and translate this effort to produce a temporary parental peace of mind. 

Cornell says "parents will have the opportunity, if they want, to pick up a test from their local school district, either before Monday or on Monday, that they can give to their child at home to see if they're child is positive or negative. That's if they want to do that. And then if the child is positive, obviously keep the child home and check with your pediatrician. If you child is negative, send your child to school."  

Niagara Falls superintendent Mark Laurrie added: "The ability to get these tests and then to deliver them to the 12 BOCES throughout the whole state may not happen overnight, so the hope is to have this rolled out early next week, but it's all dependent on the supply chain."

But in the background and yet to come, they're setting up the more long-term Test-to-Stay program for schools for the rest of the school year. It was used in a successful pilot program by Grand Island schools and then over in Monroe County.

It's the alternative to quarantine, if there would be an exposure in the classroom with more details to come.

Cornell said "there will be a separate communication specifically about Test-to-Stay: when it's going to start and how it's going to work."


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