Albany schools ‘ready’ for yellow zone coronavirus testing after Thanksgiving

ALBANY —  The Albany city school district is prepared to test 20 percent of its on-site students and staff after Thanksgiving break should the level of coronavirus confirmed cases in the area meet the state’s criteria for the precautionary “yellow zone,” the district announced Tuesday.

The plan utilizes school nurses to lead testing teams that will visit each building daily, including district offices at Academy Park, Essex Street and Harriet Gibbons Student Services Center.

The district is prepared to do random testing at some or all of its buildings depending on which areas are labeled yellow zones.

“We have looked at it holistically; how would we go about testing our entire school district, students faculty and staff?” Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams said. “We have everything we need to fulfill that requirement.”

Infection rates in the Capital Region were at 3.2 percent on Monday, but the seven-day rolling average for the region is at 2.3, according to state data. A geographic area is shaded yellow when its seven-day average consistently reaches the 3 percent threshold over 10 days.

The district has requested 715 rapid tests from the state in order to screen its in-school population over a two-week period if new cases continue at recent levels.

Testing would be conducted randomly each day. Parents and guardians would be required to provide consent for students prior to testing; the district will have a consent process ready for families following Thanksgiving break.

For a district-wide yellow zone designation, the district would be required to test at least 70 people daily to meet the 20 percent two-week threshold. A yellow zone is the least-restrictive of three micro-cluster levels defined in the state’s plan to address the significant rise in COVID-19 cases.

If a school district’s results after two weeks of testing are below the seven-day average for the county, the district can stop testing, according to the state’s micro-cluster strategy.

If confirmed cases continue to rise in December or the new year, the Albany district is prepared to shift to a full virtual model for all students.

The district continues to monitor county coronavirus numbers and its own COVID-19 statistics on a daily basis, Adams said.

“The most critical thing that everyone can do to help us maintain both in-person and virtual learning options for our students is to follow the health and safety guidelines,” Adams said. “Wear a mask, maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more, wash your hands frequently.”

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