We are so excited to welcome you back into our schools!
As we begin this new year, the health and safety of all students and staff members remains our top concern. That’s why many things in our school buildings look different this year, from face masks and physical distancing in every classroom, to the disinfection of every school, every single night. We are taking all of these steps to ensure that our schools remain safe, our students and staff members stay healthy, and that you feel confident sending your children for in-person learning.
Today, I am writing to ask for your help with another important element of our health and safety work: testing our students and staff members for COVID-19. Keeping school buildings open depends on helping us stay aware of and take immediate action to address COVID-19 concerns in our buildings. That’s why we have partnered with NYC Health + Hospitals, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the NYC Test and Trace Corps to arrange for testing of DOE students and staff members for COVID-19 infection.
Our testing partners will conduct in-school COVID-19 tests of randomly-selected staff members and students in grades 1–12 once per month (excluding District 75 schools). The number of children and staff members to be tested each month will depend on the size of the school population. In addition to the random monthly testing, we are also working hard to offer in-school testing later this year for students who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, or are a confirmed close contact of someone in the school who has tested positive. The test itself is easy, quick, and safe—instead of the “long swab” that goes in the back of the nose, this test is a short, small swab (like a Q-Tip) that goes just in the front of the nose. Later this school year, it is possible that our partners will even be able to administer tests by collecting small amounts of saliva (spit).
In order for us to administer an in-school COVID-19 test to your child, we need your consent. We strongly encourage you to sign the “DOE Consent Form for COVID-19 Testing” to your school as soon as possible. (Please note that this form is also available in nine other languages on our COVID-19 Testing page).
Monthly testing of randomly selected staff members and students is a vital part of our efforts to prevent COVID-19 transmission in our buildings, because it helps identify positive COVID-19 cases when symptoms are not present. As with other health and safety measures we are requiring to keep our school communities safe, the success of this testing initiative relies on the partnership and cooperation of staff members and students.
While consenting to testing is not mandatory, providing our testing partners with a sufficient monthly sample size to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 is critical in our ongoing fight against this virus and to ensure we can keep school communities in school buildings for in-person learning. For the safety of our school community, students who do not have consent forms on file may be required to learn remotely if we do not receive forms from enough students in the school.
We want to assure you that if your child is selected for testing but is uncomfortable or unable to be tested, we will not test your child and will work with you to address any concerns so that they can participate in future testing. We are focused on making this a brief and gentle experience for our students, led by our trained testers.
Testing in schools will begin in October. If your child is tested, we will let you know they were tested, along with when and how you will receive the results, which will typically be provided within 48-72 hours.
I know you likely have questions—please check out our “COVID-19 Testing for Students and Staff” site, including our Frequently Asked Questions page, and review it with your child. In addition, you can reach out to your school at any time with any questions or concerns.
We deeply appreciate your partnership and commitment to keeping our school communities safe and healthy. On behalf of the DOE, I wish all of our students and staff members a safe start to the 2020–2021 school year.
Richard A. Carranza
Chancellor, NYC Department of Education