Teachers question testing capacity once school begins

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TOWN OF TONAWANDA, NY (WIVB) Kenmore West teacher Peter Stuhlmiller is concerned about whether the local testing capacity will be enough when schools reopen. “Teachers want to go back and teach. That’s what we love to do about our profession, but we can’t do it if it’s putting our kids and colleagues at risk.”

Each week, about 20,000 tests are conducted on Erie County residents mostly through hospitals and private companies like Quest Diagnostics. But only 500 of those tests, less than three percent, are done through the Erie County Laboratory.

“The County Health Commissioner was clear, ‘We take care of health, you (the schools) take care of education’ Okay, well then we run into this problem where there’s not enough tests, the turnaround time is inadequate.”

The Erie County Health Department tells News Four its contact tracing team is prepared to work closely with school districts to break the chains of transmission within school settings.

“There’s so many layers of government interaction that lead to these gaps in time where kids and adults are gonna be at risk,” said Stuhllmiller. “So, our state union passed a resolution a couple weeks ago saying, when there is a positive test, schools need to shut down for 14 days.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it clear that teachers and parents still carry a lot of weight in determining how and when each district will reopen. “They can reopen if they are safe. What is safe? Safe means they have the proper precautions in place and the teachers, and the parents agree that they are safe to open,” said Cuomo.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation passed a resolution demanding Buffalo schools start with remote learning only because 86% of the Buffalo teachers surveyed DON’T think the districts reopening plan is safe for students parents and staff.

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