Parents say coronavirus tests in New York schools are ‘reckless’, ‘scary’

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STATEN ISLAND, NY – The city’s plan to conduct random coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in public schools throughout the current school year, starting this month, has outraged parents – some claiming that they will not allow their children to be tested in school.

“Each school performs this test every month,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference in September. “Is random. I want to be clear about this – so it’s a mix of members of the school community that will be tested every month. Each union will develop its own approach to this.

Parents told Advance / SILive.com that they were uncomfortable with their children being tested without being present, citing concerns about the testing process and who will have access to the results.

“We don’t want to walk away completely; we want to put some kind of normalcy in his life. I want to give blended learning a chance, ”said Stacey Favara of Annadale, referring to the city’s blended learning model, in which students return to their school buildings one to three days a week, learning most of the time. Parents also have the option of full-time distance learning.

Favara’s son is a seventh grader at Elias Bernstein Middle School (IS 7), in Huguenot, and she said she believes testing should only be done if a student has symptoms – calling the process. random “scary”.

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Students in New York City began returning to school buildings for the 2020-2021 school year as part of a phased approach, with middle and high school students starting their return last Thursday.

3-K, Pre-K and District 75 students were the first to start showing up for in-person learning – entering buildings on September 21, followed by K-5 and K-8 students last Tuesday. .

CONSENT TO TEST

Parental consent is required for testing for any student under the age of 18.

If a student does not receive parental consent for the test, or refuses to take the test, the student will be transferred to the distance learning cohort, according to the United Federation of Teachers. Any staff member who chooses not to participate in random testing will be placed on unpaid leave, according to the city’s Department of Education (DOE) and the union.

Testing was originally scheduled to begin on Thursday, October 1, however, de Blasio announced at a press conference last Tuesday that the program would not start until next week, explaining that consent forms are currently being distributed to parents. He urged parents to return the forms immediately.

“In addition to this consent form, we are asking parents to go ahead and send it back, or if they have any concerns, raise them and we will have them answered, but we want the most. Possible children adopt this testing approach. as quickly as possible, ”said the mayor.

SUFFICIENT SAMPLE SIZE REQUIRED

After the mayor’s announcement, New York Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza explained what the mandatory test means and how it will work in a school.

“Providing our testing partners with a sufficient monthly sample size to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 is essential in our continued fight against this virus and to ensure that we can keep school communities in school buildings for learning in nobody, ”Carranza said.

Students who do not have parental consent for testing may be required to switch to distance learning if the total number of consent forms is not sufficient – depending on the size of the in-person community, a he declared.

The randomized monthly health monitoring program will test between 10% and 20% of the school community. The sample size will depend on the school population, said Dr Jay Varma, the mayor’s senior public health adviser.

The size of the school’s in-person community will determine the percentage of the population to be tested:

  • For a school with a base population of 0 to 499 = 20%
  • For a school with a base population of 500 to 999 = 15%
  • For a school with a base population of >1 000 = 10%

No school system has ever attempted a testing policy on such a scale before.

The coming weeks will allow for adjustments based on information gathered from school officials and parents, however, the city says it is confident it will receive the number of consent forms needed for each school’s sample size. .

Some parents said a better idea would be if the DOE required a pediatrician’s note for a child showing a negative COVID-19 test.

“We want to assure you that if your child is selected for the test, but is uncomfortable or unable to do so, we will not test him and we will work with you to resolve any issues, so that he can participate in future tests, ”Carranza said.

A LOT OF CONCERNS

Jennifer Crinion said she was concerned about her 5-year-old daughter being tested without a parent present, explaining that she shouldn’t have to choose between in-person and distance learning based on a test.

“We all want the best for our kids, but with that, it’s like damned if you do it, damned if you don’t,” said Crinion, who lives at Great Kills but doesn’t. didn’t want her daughter’s school name used in this report. ..

She added that she would like more information on who will perform the tests and who will have access to the results.

“… It’s just scary for these kids. They see the Q-tip and they panic, ”she said.

The mayor said the test would be a self-swab, not the long cotton swab inserted far into the nasal cavity.

Asked about the Chancellor’s announcement regarding consent forms, Crinion said: “We have decided to keep her hybrid until she can no longer leave. I don’t want to back down and we certainly will NOT give in. They are holding our children’s education hostage. They don’t want our kids in school, ”she said.

Favara also said her son will continue with the blended learning model until he is “forced” to switch to distance learning.

“It’s crazy what the school asks for. They don’t get my consent to test my child at school without my presence, ”she said.

DOE: SAFETY IN TESTS

When asked about the testing policy, DOE spokesperson Miranda Barbot told Advance / SILive.com: “Testing keeps our communities safe, transmission is low and makes in-person learning possible – we we need all members of our school communities to participate. From next week, it will be mandatory for schools to participate in our random testing program. This is a brand new venture, and we will do everything we can to make it a success.

Families will be notified of their child’s school test date two days in advance, according to the DOE.

The agency said it understands that parents cannot sign the consent form immediately, so families will be repeatedly asked to complete the form, with the idea being that additional forms may arrive during the early days. school weeks.

IS THE CITY PLAN SUFFICIENT?

New York City’s plan to screen public school students for the coronavirus may be insufficient to detect and prevent large outbreaks, according to a new report.

The New York Times reported on Friday that new research from New York University indicates that the city’s plan to test 10% to 20% of the school community once a month may not be enough to detect the type. major epidemics that could close schools.

“Outbreaks could be quite large by the time they’re detected by the 10-20% monthly testing,” Anna Bershteyn, lead author of the new analysis, told The New York Times.

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