Important Updates from the Chancellor!
September 29, 2020
We are so excited to welcome you back into our school building! As we begin this new school year, the health and safety of all students and staff remains our top concern. That’s why many things in our school buildings will look different this year, from face masks to physical distancing in every classroom to disinfecting every school, every night. We are taking all of these steps to ensure that our schools remain safe, our students and staff stay healthy, and that you feel confident sending your children for in-person learning.
Today we are writing to ask for your help with another important element of our health and safety work: testing our students and staff for COVID-19. Keeping school buildings open depends on helping us stay aware of and take immediate action to address COVID-19 concerns in our buildings. That’s why we have partnered with NYC Health + Hospitals, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the NYC Test & Trace Corps to arrange for testing of NYC DOE students and staff for COVID-19 infection.
Our testing partners will test a randomly selected group of staff and students in schools once per month. The number of children and staff to be tested each month will depend on the size of the school population. In addition to the random monthly testing, we are also working hard to offer in-school testing later this year for students who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, or are a confirmed close contact of someone in the school who has tested positive. The test is easy, quick, and safe. Instead of the “long swab” that goes in the back of the nose, this test is a short, small swab (like a Q-Tip) that goes just in the front of the nose. Later this school year, it is possible that tests will be administered by collecting a small amount of saliva (spit).
In order for us to administer a COVID-19 test to your child, we need your consent. We strongly encourage you to sign and return the attached consent form as soon as possible.
Monthly testing of randomly selected staff and students is a vital part of our efforts to prevent COVID-19 transmission in our buildings, because it helps identify positive COVID-19 cases when symptoms are not present. As with other health and safety measures we are requiring to keep our staff and students safe, the success of this testing initiative relies on the partnership and cooperation of staff and students.
While consent to testing is not mandatory, providing our testing partners with a sufficient monthly sample size to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 is critical in our ongoing fight against this virus and to ensure we can keep school communities in school buildings for in-person learning. For the safety of our school community, students who do not have consent forms on file may be required to learn remotely if we do not receive forms from enough students in the school.
We want to assure you that if your child is selected for testing but is uncomfortable or unable to be tested, we will not test your child and will work with you to address any concerns so that they can participate in future testing. We are focused on making this a brief, and gentle experience for our students, led by trained testers.
If your child is tested, we will let you know they were tested and when and how you will receive the results, which will typically be provided within 48-72 hours.
We know you likely have questions, and we are sharing more information in the attached Frequently Asked Questions document. Please review this with your child.
Testing in schools will begin in October. You can reach out to your school at any time with any questions or concerns.
We deeply appreciate your partnership and your commitment to keeping your school community safe and healthy.
Dave A. Chokshi, MD, MSc
Commissioner, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Ted Long, MD, MHS
Executive Director, NYC Test & Trace Corps
Richard A. Carranza
Chancellor, New York City Department of Education