Most schools in Monroe County start test to stay

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — As the Finger Lakes region deals with one of the largest surges of COVID-19 we’ve seen yet, the Governor and County leaders have made it clear, keeping schools open is a top priority. The state has expanded some of the testing options for students and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello is planning to expand testing availability for all families.

A number of school districts locally have started Test to Stay which allows unvaccinated students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 to continue to go to class as long as they test negative daily. Most districts are handling the protocol similarly. They allow a student to ride the bus to school but he/she must be rapid-tested upon arrival. If they are negative, they can stay for classes only. They are not allowed to attend any extracurricular activities or sports and must continue quarantine protocols outside of the school day.

“It’s new for those of us who have started implementing it but we’re already seeing a difference,” says Bo Wright, the Superintendent at Rush-Henrietta and the currently President of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents, “all of those students we’re able to test would’ve been sitting home forced to learn remotely had it not been for the protocol that we have in place now so, we feel good about that.”

The only district in Monroe County that will not be participating in Test to Stay is the Rochester City School District. A spokesperson for the district tells News10NBC that it is not possible for many families to transport kids to school to test before the start of the school day and RCSD does not have nursing resources to obtain consent and test the number of students this could impact.

Despite RCSD opting-out, rapid testing kits will be available for students there and in all districts as part of Monroe County Executive Adam Bello’s initiative to widely expand testing availability. The county recently purchased 750,000 testing kits to give out, “a good number of those are going to be going to the schools for distribution and to use as they see fit so, if that’s what it takes to keep kids in school, that’s what will happen,” Bello tells News10NBC.

The County Executive says he feels too much damage was done when kids spent months out of the classroom and he’s going to do everything in his power to prevent it from happening again, “I want to keep kids in school and we staked in large part last year, almost our reputation on this last year pushing the state to keep our schools open and our kids in school despite the COVID rise in cases because it’s not spreading in schools, there’s just no evidence of that because they’re being safe,” Bello says.

Wright agrees, “I think if anything could impact our ability to stay open, it’s levels of staffing. To this point we’ve been able to keep our schools open for in-person instruction and I know I speak for every superintendent in the county when I say that we’re committed to continuing down that path.”