SAYRE – During the Sayre Area School District board of education meeting on Tuesday, Superintendent Dr. Jill Daloisio gave an update on the district’s COVID-19 policies and procedures.
“I wanted to update the school community on some information that we have received from the CDC in our safety and health plan,” Daloisio said. “(For) states that will refer to the CDC and follow those recommendations, they have moved the quarantine time down to five days.”
She went on to say that the district will also be participating in a “test to stay” program with the Pennsylvania Department of Education for students, faculty and staff that are identified as close contacts.
“I applied with PDE/Concentric by Ginkgo, which offers the test to stay program,” said Daloisio. “It takes about a two week time frame to turn around, so I am hoping that the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Day it will be up and running with that company.”
Daloisio explained that the test to stay program may only by utilized by students that have parents written permission submitted to the school.
“I would have to have parent written permission for a student to be able to test and stay with a rapid antigen test,” said Daloisio.
The program itself consists of two tests after a student is identified as a close contact: the first test being two to four days after exposure, and the second being five to seven days after.
“The days cannot be consecutive,” explained Daloisio, “so if the first round of testing happens to be on day four, the student may not be tested on day five. They would have to wait until day six or day seven.”
Participants in the program must also wear a mask on school property for 10 days after their date of exposure.
“If they test negative on day five, six, or seven, they must still wear their mask through day 10,” said Daloisio.
Tests will be provided at no cost to the school by the PDE and Concentric by Ginkgo, and will be administered by a member of the district nursing staff.
This program is only applicable for unvaccinated close contacts who are asymptomatic. Vaccinated individuals who are identified as close contacts and asymptomatic may attend school in person without testing, but they must also wear a mask for 10 days after their date of exposure.
Daloisio noted the significance of this program, as it will allow more students to not miss out on time in class or other school activities.
“There’s been over 300 students — and some of them on the list twice and three times — that have been identified as close contacts and been excluded from school and missed school events,” Daloisio said. “We have had less then five of those students that have been identified as close contacts and excluded from school turn up within that time frame as a positive case.”
Daloisio went on to say that it will be interesting to see how many close contacts become positive cases with the test to stay program.
Board member Donald Skerpon, who was attending Tuesday’s meeting via video call, suggested that the school board implement its own mask mandate on school property.
“Given that we were in this scenario early in the new (school) year and it seemed to go fine, and given the period that we’re in right now, why would we not go back to masking for a little while,” said Skerpon. “Would we not be putting ourselves and the school district in the best position possible to keep kids in the classroom?”
Board members Deb Agnew and James Shaw showed support for Skerpon’s proposition, but Andrew Hickey and Jaimee Alsing were against the idea.
“If the state’s not going to make it a requirement, why should we?” said Hickey. “The public here is definitely not in favor of it. (For) the vast, vast majority, it’s not going to go over well.”
“We’re not medical professionals,” said Alsing. “We should follow the guidance of the state.”
Board president Pete Quattrini noted that he is torn on the subject, but he ultimately believes it should be up to the choice of the parents and students.
“As Mr. Skerpon said, I think we have a due diligence to do everything we possibly can to safely keep our kids in school,” Quattrini said, “but personally, (I believe) it’s choice.”
Board members Ron Cole, Jennifer Riley, and Felicia Kmetz did not share their opinions on the matter.
No action was taken on a district-issued mask mandate, but the board decided to monitor case numbers and possibly readdress the issue in the future.