Dear Niagara Wheatfield School Community:
As COVID-19 cases across our region and state have increased over the past month, we continue to work with other districts and the Niagara County Department of Health (NCDoH) on ways we can continue to keep our buildings open and safe.
As you know, New York State has implemented and revamped a micro-cluster strategy to designate areas with high COVID-19 infection rates as Yellow, Orange, or Red zones, based on positivity rates and daily new cases. If a zip code, census tract, or region is placed in one of those zones, there are restrictions imposed for schools.
The NWCSD was recently designated as a Yellow Zone and we are working with the NCDoH and have contracted with outside health support agencies to begin testing. Our District is committed to remaining open for in-person learning as we enter this Yellow Zone, as long as we can comply with the state’s testing requirements.
On Friday, Governor Cuomo announced changes to the zone designation metrics:
- A Yellow Zone is a geographic area (zip code, census tract, etc.) with a 3 percent positivity rate over the past 10 days AND the cluster is in top 10 percent for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and week-over-week growth in daily admissions.
- An Orange Zone is a geographic area (zip code, census tract, etc.) with 4 percent positivity rate over the past 10 days AND 85 percent hospital capacity OR the Department of Health determines unacceptably high rate of hospital admissions.
- A Red Zone is a geographic area (zip code, census tract, etc.) that is 21 days from 90 percent hospital capacity.
Based on our understanding, New York State, in conjunction with the NCDoH, will determine when an area or school district has been placed in a microcluster zone.
In order for the NWCSD to remain open while in a Yellow Zone, we must conduct screening tests on 20 percent of the in-person students and staff over a two-week period. Students and staff members will be randomly chosen from a pool of individuals who have given consent to testing. Should the results of those tests show a lower infection rate than the designated zone’s infection rate, our schools will remain open and no further testing will be required.
***As of this morning, we have booked Aveanna Health Care to administer the BINAXNow rapid test at the High School ALC on the following dates: 12/22, 12/23 and 12/29, between 7:00am and 3:00pm. Your child’s building will be contacting you to reserve a time slot for testing if you previously gave consent for testing.
If NWCSD enters an Orange Zone, we will need to continue to test different students and staff at a rate of 20 percent per month.
If NWCSD enters a Red Zone, we will need to continue to test different students and staff at a rate of 30 percent per month.
We have secured appropriate permissions to conduct rapid testing on students and staff. This only applies to in-person or hybrid students. Students who are learning in a full virtual setting are not part of the testing pool.
The rapid test involves use of the Abbott, BinaxNow Antigen tests provided by the NYS Department of Health. This test involves a non-invasive cotton swab swiping just inside the lowermost portion of the nostril. These are not the deep-sinus swab tests that are conducted at medical facilities. The test results are available within minutes. Individual test results will only be shared with the family, the school nurse, and the local department of health. We will randomly choose students from a pool of individuals whose parents have consented to the test. If a student or staff member tests positive, they will be sent home and must stay at home until they are released by the county department of health. The District will inform the school community of any positive cases as it has done in the past.
The school community will be updated if the state designation changes for any part of our community. Our District is finalizing our testing plan and will share the information once complete.
As always, thank you for all that you do to support our school district. We continue to be encouraged by our community’s resilience amid adversity, and also our community’s flexibility and patience throughout the pandemic. We will continue to put the health and safety of our students and staff at the forefront of every decision made.