Dear F-M Schools Community,
With the start of school quickly approaching, I am writing to you today to determine interest in an opportunity presented in partnership with Onondaga County that provides for the continuation of the weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing of both students and staff that began during the last school year.
Surveillance testing proactively screens for the prevalence of COVID-19 within a school community. Last year, Onondaga County partnered with Quadrant Biosciences to randomly test a representative sample of the total school population (students and staff) once a week in order to determine the prevalence and spread of the virus throughout Central New York.
The program that began last school year and was offered to students and staff members was the first year of a two-year, grant-funded opportunity awarded to Onondaga County. In an effort to determine whether the program at F-M continues for the second year, the district is asking families and staff members to complete and submit a brief general interest survey by Wednesday, Aug. 31. Survey results will help the district determine if there is enough interest to host the testing program for the 2022-23 school year.
If the program continues, testing would be held in F-M schools once a week (last year it was held on Fridays during the year) throughout the duration of the surveillance testing program, and will target a random sample of the staff/student population. The research plan is to target a different sample population every week (sampling with replacement) in order to maximize the power of the study. It is worth noting that if not enough families avail themselves of the program, the same students may end up getting tested on a more regular and or weekly basis. If that is the case, we will notify families of their right to opt out of the surveillance testing.
The method of testing will be pooled saliva, and Quadrant Biosciences in Syracuse will be conducting the sample analysis. The sample will be collected by using a small swab, similar to a Q-Tip, to collect saliva from the inside of an individual’s mouth. Twelve individual samples will be combined together for the initial pooled test.
To be eligible for this testing, students must complete and return to their school a consent form, which will be sent at a later date if the program is offered. Those families and staff members who complete a consent form will be provided with a hyperlink to register on the Quadrant Biosciences website.
Should any initial pool test positive, a second round of individual test results from the students and/or staff in that pool is conducted. This secondary round of sampling, called reflex testing, will determine who in the initial pool is COVID-19 positive.
During an Aug. 22 press conference, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that most COVID restrictions implemented in schools have been eased for the upcoming school year, including exposure quarantines for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. The state still recommends that anyone who has been exposed to the virus should wear a mask, and anyone experiencing symptoms should get tested. Students and staff members who test positive for COVID must still isolate themselves for five days and continue to wear a mask upon their return to school from day 6 through day 10, according to Hochul.
Additionally, New York state plans to provide at-home COVID-19 test kits for the district to distribute to those interested families the week before the start of school. Parents and guardians should call the main office of their child’s school to request a free test kit which could then be picked up during regular office hours.
We will continue to monitor all local, state and federal guidance related to COVID-19 to ensure that we are following best practices to mitigate the spread of the virus in our schools. Our Let’s Talk communication platform is available via our website if you have questions or concerns, or you may directly reach out to me or your student’s building principal.
I wish you all the best for a healthy and successful school year!
Craig J. Tice, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District