Members of Community District Educational Council 22 (CEC 22) convened on Tuesday evening; January 4th via Zoom for what was their very first meeting of the New Year.
The group held a moment of silence for P.S. 119’s Principal, Denise Nopper, who passed away after an illness on December 21st. Having dedicated some 30 years of service as an educator in District 22 schools, she undoubtedly touched many hearts, including that of Superintendent Julia Bove who had worked closely with her and expressed her tremendous sense of loss. “She was more than just an educator in my District,” she said, “she was my friend, and it’s a pain I cannot even explain.” She thanked Assistant Principal Snow and Interim Acting Principal Ingram for the work they did in Ms. Nopper’s absence and assured the community that a permanent Principal would be appointed, but that there would certainly be a delay as all processes within the DOE have been affected by COVID-19 office closures and personnel shortages.
Superintendent Bove also shared the most up-to-date information available in terms of COVID-19 testing and safety protocols, informed by a meeting with Dr. Long from Test and Trace and DOE Chancellor Banks, but reminded the community that guidance is constantly changing and that policies are continually being revised as the numbers fluctuate.
Bove explained that a major spike in cases as schools reopened after the holiday break was fully expected. She said that families had not recently had robust access to testing until schools distributed at-home rapid antigen kits (Binax and Flowflex brands) on the first day back, helping to identify a large number of infected individuals who could have otherwise flown under the radar, but will instead be home taking care of themselves rather than infecting others.
While testing at home is faster and much more convenient than standing in line at urgent care for hours in the bitter cold, antigen testing is considered limited and can produce false negatives in the early and late stages of infection and in those who are asymptomatic. Unlike the gold standard PCR tests, which are collected by medical professionals and are processed in a laboratory under ideal conditions, self-administered tests can be botched by the user who either misunderstands the instructions or does not follow them correctly, which can also result in a false negative result.
Experts say that those who test positive can be confident they have the virus as false positives are rare, but that testing negative does not completely rule out the possibility of infection. So while the test will likely identify many of the infected staff and students in a school, some will continue to fly under the radar and because the test is being done on the honor system, many parents worry how many families will actually test and report back truthfully. Considering how difficult it is to obtain a PCR test these days, it’s hard to argue with the fact that any test is better than no test at all.
Bove also explained that the call from parents for additional PCR testing had been heard and moreover, that the science had demanded it. She said that effective the first day back, the testing threshold had been doubled; raised from 10% of unvaccinated students to 20% of all consenting students regardless of their vaccination status. The Superintendent said that while she respects the decision of those who chose to opt-out of testing, she encourages all families to consider giving their consent.
A parent did inquire as to which companies are conducting the PCR tests for the DOE, so that families could vet them and ensure they are not doing genetic data harvesting or using swabs that contain toxic ethylene oxide on students. Lab information is readily available online at https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/health-and-wellness/covid-information/covid-19-testing-for-students/testing-providers where parents can search by school or District to find their assigned provider. In fact, Medrite is the official lab for all District 22 schools, with more information available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (929)800-8378.
In terms of the situation room protocol, Superintendent Bove explained that anyone with symptoms and any student or staff in a classroom with a detected case will go home with 2 test kits, one to use that same day and the other to use 4 days later, so that if the individual receives a negative result the second time, they may return to school on day 5. She said that the push is to keep schools open, but that every possible precaution has been taken at every level of school leadership to ensure the safety of staff and students. She assured families that test kits and personal protective equipment are stockpiled and readily available and that their children are in good hands.
The next meeting of CEC 22 will be held on Tuesday, February 8th at 6:30 p.m., but whether it will be in-person or remote is still to be determined.