How a district responded when COVID cases quadrupled

Cases went from one a day in November to about four by the end of 2020

After a sharp surge in COVID infections in December, leaders in the City School District of Albany saw an urgent need for voluntary surveillance testing of staff and students.

The New York district recorded about one case a day in November, but that doubled to about 2.4 cases a day in the first few weeks of December, Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams says.

And then cases jumped to about four a day during the last week of 2020, Adams said.

“My goal is to have the district do its part in supporting all efforts in reducing COVID-19,” Adams said.

With cases in Albany County also increasing, the district was having trouble maintaining adequate staffing levels and providing supervision in all classrooms, she said.

Over the next two weeks, the district will offer voluntary rapid, nasal swab COVID tests to all students and staff. Anyone who tests positive will be isolated and referred to a health care provider for the more rigorous PCR test.

Through Wednesday, the district had tested 143 students and all were negative. So far, about 900 students and 320 faculty and staff members have volunteered for the tests, Adams added.

Testing at school also expands access to more families and makes the efforts more equitable, Adams says.

But the district’s ability to reopen more classrooms will be determined by local COVID rates and how much funding the state provides.

Even with vaccination on the horizon, students will still be required to social distance in class, which limits the number of children who can attend at the same time, Adams said.

“We know the safest place for students is in school and we know that academically we see a lot of progress with students in person,” she said.