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Albion schools say more Covid testing needed locally, or change state policy

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 September 2020 at 9:16 am

Students with symptoms could be out of school for a while with current state protocol

ALBION – School leaders say they are concerned about the impact on Albion families of a State Department of Health policy for students who are home sick or if they have Covid-19 symptoms.

Those students can’t return to school in-person until they have a negative Covid test and a doctor’s note saying they are OK.

That could slow down the return to the classroom for students, interim superintendent Scott Bishoping told the Board of Education on Monday.

“The biggest issue that I’ve seen us dealing with so far is the concern about what happens when we have a report of a student being ill, either from home or we have to send them home,” he told the Board.

The current DOH guidelines require a doctor’s note, a Covid negative test and no symptoms in order to return.

If parents call in, saying a child has symptoms or isn’t feeling well, the student can’t come back to school until there is a negative Covid test or a doctor’s visit. Students have to meet that same threshold if they are sent home from school, feeling sick or with Covid symptoms, even if it’s just a headache.

“It has to be difficult for parents,” Bishoping said. “We hope there is some adjustment to that.”

Linda Weller, a Board of Education member, said the current state policy will be a strain on families, who may have to pay for a test in the county and then pay to go to the doctor’s office.

“It is so unfair to the economically disadvantaged,” she said.

There are free Covid test options in Niagara and Monroe counties, but not in Orleans. The test results often take a week or more to come back.

Ideally, there would be a rapid test with the results known very quickly, but that isn’t an option for Albion students right now, Bishoping said.

Advocacy groups are pressing the state to change the policy, he said, to either require a doctor’s visit or a negative Covid test, not both.

“We want more chances for students to get those tests so they can get back to school,” he said about Covid testing. “Or there needs to be a change in the language.”

In other action at Monday’s BOE meeting:

• Discussed how public relations and communication services will be handled at the district this year. Albion has contracted with BOCES for PR and communication services for the 2020-21 school year.

Susan Starkweather Miller served in that role for many years, as well as being a grantwriter and managing the district’s internship program. She retired on Aug. 31.

The district will have BOCES do the communication piece, with a BOCES staffer on campus and afterschool, often on campus five days a week and sometimes on weekends.

Bishoping told the Board of Education one advantage with the BOCES arrangement is Albion also has access to other BOCES staff if there was a crisis situation and Albion needs those communication services.

The district will see how the arrangement goes and could switch back to hiring a district employee from the community, perhaps next year.

The district isn’t doing the internship program to start the school year and Mary Leto, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction, handles most of the larger “entitlement” grants. Starkweather Miller wrote the applications and managed the “competitive” grants, but there have been fewer of those options.

“I don’t think we have enough to support a part-time or full-time grant writer at this point,” Leto said.

The BOCES staffer also is expected to help Albion roll out a more active district presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

• The board accepted the athletic trainer bid of $30 per hour from Karen Renner of Holley. The board said it needed to accept the lowest responsible bidder. Renner is a lower cost than Charlie Palmer’s proposal of $35 per hour. Palmer has served in the role in recent years for Albion.

• Approved a bid for $41,820 from Lakeshore Property Maintenance LLC in Waterport to provide snow removal services on the district campus. The bid is up 2 percent from Lakeshore bid of $41,000 last school year.

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