Last week, based on updated recommendations from the Nassau County Department of Health, the North Shore School District updated its Covid-19 protocols, with the intention of getting “students back to school faster,” according to interim Superintendent Dr. Tom Dolan.
Students are no longer required to produce a negative PCR test to return to school after testing positive for the virus, because North Shore will now accept results from rapid tests given at doctors’ offices, urgent-care centers and pharmacies. Negative results from at-home tests, however, will not be accepted by the district.
At the Jan. 20 Board of Education meeting, Dolan said that the district’s refusal to accept home test results is consistent with Health Department regulations.
Some parents say they are wondering why the district distributed home tests in the first place if they won’t be accepted as proof that a student or staff member is fit to return to school. Others questioned why it took so long for the district to distribute the tests. “[I’m] curious why these tests weren’t given to the school districts a month ago, in anticipation of the surge,” Sandy Fochi, a North Shore parent, said. “They expire in two weeks.”
The kits were provided by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, with directions that they were to be distributed to any students and staff member who wanted them.
“Frankly, the district received many confusing messages over the recent recess about these kits, and ours were not even available to be picked up until after we had returned to school,” Dolan said. “We did distribute them as quickly and efficiently as possible . . . more test kits are available now, and are scheduled to be in our hands later this week, with a more appropriate expiration date.”
The district said it would arrange opportunities for parents to pick up the next round of free at-home tests after school hours at all five schools. Parents can pick up tests at Glen Head, Glenwood Landing and Sea Cliff elementary schools from 3 to 6 p.m., at the middle school from 3:30 to 8 p.m. and at the high school from 3:30 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. They will need to identify themselves and indicate who their children are.
Students who test positive can now return to school after five days of isolation, provided they have had no fever for 24 hours and do not require fever-reducing medication.
“I need to acknowledge that I implemented the second of those changes a couple of days after some of our neighboring districts, perhaps overcautious in making these changes,” Dolan said. “That is because we want to make sure that [these protocols] change once, and not have to be reeled back in. We’ve all seen a few ‘revolving’ protocols this year, and I’ve been influenced by those experiences. To be clear, we always rely on the Nassau County Department of Health on these matters, because they are our local health agency.”
Another change that went into effect this week was the opportunity for staff who test positive to return, like students, after a five-day isolation period, provided that, like students, they are fever-free for 24 hours and don’t require medication.
While students and staff will be allowed to return to school sooner, they will not be required to. Anyone who is not healthy enough to return after five days should not come back until they are healthy, Dolan said. “That is in everyone’s best interest,” he added.
Lauren and Marc Healy, parents of two Sea Cliff elementary students, said they were content with how the school board and district administrators have dealt with the pandemic thus far. “We appreciate everything that’s been done with ventilation, keeping the windows open and the time the kids get to spend outdoors,” the couple said in a statement that was read by board President Dave Ludmar at the Jan. 20 meeting. “. . . We know not all families share the same view, but we have been happy with the choices the school has made thus far and hope they will continue in the same way.”