No clear picture on covid-19 testing or vaccines in the North Salem Central School District
The North Salem Central School District (NSCSD) currently has no ability to test students and staff for covid-19 should it be required to do so by the state and no guidance on how or when vaccinations will be made available to teachers and staff members. The news comes as Westchester's 7-day average positivity rate hovers at 7% and hospitals in the Westchester region are ranked among the worst in the state for vaccine distribution rates.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said schools in counties in which the 7-day positivity rate exceeds 9% can remain open if school districts implement a testing program that shows the in-school testing rate to be below the community average. Previously a 9% community infection rate would have required schools to close.
While a recent post on the NSCSD website indicated that the Board of Education had authorized the District to enter into an agreement with PulseMD, a regional provider of urgent care, for on-site testing and lab services, Superintendent Ken Freeston said that the District was unable to agree on terms with the company. He attributed the breakdown in talks to “test availability and liability assurances,” and indicated that the District is now trying to determine whether BOCES can be a source for testing support.
Freeston noted that there are no state funds to support any required testing. Rather, the District would likely draw from its fund balance to cover any costs associated with the initiative, should it be required.
Planning around vaccine distribution is equally unclear at this juncture. According to Freeston, “we have not received any information from the State on vaccinations of teachers and staff.” Yesterday Cuomo urged the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the labor union that represents most teachers in New York City public schools, and other public labor unions to "please now, think about organizing your own system." Freeston said that he expects vaccination guidance to come from the Governor and/or the state Department of Health, but said, “we have no information on timing.”