NYS pushing test to stay, RCSD still not participating

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The state is now encouraging all school districts to implement “Test-to-Stay” in an effort to keep kids in school during this COVID surge but the Rochester City School District has opted out of the program.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul will host a call with all school superintendents in the state of New York. She says she wants healthy kids in school and it seems she’s willing to throw resources at school districts to make sure that happens. One million rapid testing kits are on their way to upstate New York districts.

“We will be prioritizing delivery based on case rates by district so that we make sure that the kits get to the districts that are seeing the highest level of transmission as early as possible in the week,” said New York State Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Jackie Bray.

Hochul and New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said keeping kids in school is a top priority.

“We understand now, the huge costs of having children’s education disrupted in terms of their socialization, their mental health, as well as their progression educationally so, the goal is to keep children in school and to do it safely,” Dr. Bassett said.

RCSD is not currently participating in Test to Stay. A week before Christmas, a spokeswoman for RCSD told News10NBC, “we do not have the staffing necessary to implement test to stay and do not want to implement a program we cannot do to fidelity.”

The City of Rochester, Monroe County and NYS have offered resources to try and help so, will RCSD take them up on it? The same RCSD spokeswoman told News10NBC on Monday she is reserving comment until after Tuesday’s meeting with the governor.

Members of the RCSD school board say they weren’t consulted before the district opted out of test to stay and at least two of them aren’t happy about it.

“It doesn’t make sense, why would we as RCSD who has the largest number of students but also the students who are in the most disadvantaged position especially as they miss school and have been out of school the longest out of all the districts and Monroe County, why would we opt-out of this?” Commissioner Beatriz LeBron told News10NBC.

Commissioner LeBron said between federal and state COVID aide, it has to find a way to make it happen.

“I get it, we are short-staffed but again we have these CARES Act dollars and there are a million ways we can be innovative and creative… we can create positions that specifically only do testing, community health workers for example, that’s a title that we can hire,” she explained, “we can be hiring some of our recent RCSD graduates to come back for a year temporarily to do testing and do COVID support for schools. So, it’s really disheartening, the lack of innovation.”

RCSD Commissioner Amy Maloy said, “I support keeping our schools open per guidelines, and also support test-to-stay initiatives, which seem to be working in various districts nationwide.” Commissioner Maloy said she’s waiting to see what further guidance the governor offers during Tuesday’s meeting with superintendents.