“Test to Stay” pilot program will launch next week at Grand Island schools

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GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Erie County Department of Health is announcing a pilot “test to stay” program at the Grand Island Central School District to stop the spread of Covid-19 in schools and keep healthy children in the classroom.

The Grand Island superintendent says the program will roll out on December 6 and is expected to run through the month and possibly into the new year.

Unvaccinated students who come in close contact with a Covid-19 positive student will be required to take a rapid antigen test before school every day that they normally would quarantine. If the student tests negative, they can attend class.

From September through November of this school year, 123 students tested positive in the Grand Island district, according to Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham. 457 students had to quarantine during that time due to exposure. With the pilot program, Dr. Graham is hopeful this will lead the charge for other school districts

“Hopefully, the data will show what we think it will show and that Erie County will be able to scale it across the county for all schools and students that fall within the close contact parameters.”

Michael Cornell, the President of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association, wants the program to take off all around the state. He and other school leaders sent a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul this weekend, asking for the statewide implementation of “Test to Stay.”

“I just don’t see how the state can continue to say ‘it’s ok to try it if you want, but we’re not going to endorse it, and we’re not going to support it in any way,'” said Cornell.

Graham is one of those school leaders who signed the letter to the Governor.

“We would love to see the New York State Department of Health adopt this strategy for every school district in New York State, and maybe that way the NYSDOH can provide other resources that the Erie County Department of Health wouldn’t be able to provide,” said Graham.

In a statement, Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein explained their reasoning behind the pilot program.

“This approach will require a substantial investment of time and resources from our department and individual schools and administrators. To do it right, we have to find out what works, how we can improve, and what our schools can expect. And with more than two dozen school districts, dozens of private schools, and more than 130,000 k-12 students in Erie County, a countywide launch is simply not feasible. A pilot program is the best first step forward.”

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