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Buffalo Public Schools update test-to-stay status

BPS is joining the program to get testing kits, but won't start testing students yet due to staffing and logistical issues.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There is an update about the test to stay program in Western New York's largest school district. Buffalo Public Schools is joining the program, but won't be starting it in the classroom for now.

The Buffalo Public School District signed up for the program to get the test kits it will need if it starts implementing test-to-stay in the classroom. But right now, with staffing levels impacted by COVID, the district isn't starting the testing just yet. 

Test to stay allows unvaccinated students and staff to stay in the classroom after being exposed to a positive case in the classroom as a close contact. Instead of quarantining for five days, they're allowed to test negative twice in that five-day period to stay in the classroom. 

But for New York State's second largest district, with more than 30,000 students and 8,000 staff members, the district says the wellness of a full or nearly full staff who are able to come to work daily to support the intensive implementation will be needed.

2 On Your Side talked with the Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services on Friday about the reasons behind this decision.

"We have to ensure that we have enough staff who are healthy, well, reporting to work every single day who are able to implement the program. That includes school nurses, school administrators, teachers. We know we are in the apex right now of this pandemic with respect to the omicron variant. And so, numbers are surging. They're continuing to surge even though they are declining, they're very high. We have to make sure we have a full compliment of staff who can implement the program," says Dr. Tonja M. Williams, BPS Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services.

They also want to make sure they keep getting enough test kits to keep the program going once they start it.

"Because we have such a large school district, you know we're the second largest school district in New York State, and so we want to make sure that we are continuously receiving enough test kits to accommodate the 30-thousand plus students that we have and the eight-thousand plus staff that we have, so other than those two things, the team meets, the medical advisory team meets, we're operationalizing how we're going to implement it. We are on board. We ordered the test kits. And so as soon as we can get stabilized staffing, we're ready," Williams said.

So far, more than twenty school districts in Erie County and many of the private schools have signed up for the test to stay program. Some have already started testing students. Districts can join at any time.

And if anyone in your family is not vaccinated yet or needs another dose, there is a vaccine clinic Friday night until 7 at The International School.