Letter: B-P is committed to keeping schools open; at-home test kits available

Dear parents and caregivers,

As we ring in the new year, I know many of you are experiencing renewed worries about the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus. I have heard from some of you who have questioned what Broadalbin-Perth is doing to keep students and staff safe. So, I am writing today to reassure you of our steadfast commitment to doing everything within our control to maintain the health of our school community and to keep students learning in the classroom.

Our COVID protocols have not changed since September. All students and staff are required to wear masks inside our school buildings, except when eating or drinking or during designated mask breaks with social distancing. Our nursing staff continues to care for our students and, using their professional judgment, determine when a student who is showing symptoms should be sent home and excluded from school pending COVID testing. We have also used one-time federal aid to hire additional temporary employees — nurses, bus drivers, and substitute teachers and teaching assistants — to help keep our doors open when regular staff must stay home because of illness.

As scientists learn more about the Omicron variant, there are almost daily reports of changing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about testing and quarantine procedures for different populations of people. We are in regular communication with local and state authorities that are issuing the guidelines and mandates we must follow, which often lag behind the news coming out of the CDC. Our COVID coordinator is in daily contact with Fulton County Public Health (FCPH), and I communicate daily with my counterparts at other HFM BOCES area school districts to keep current on these developments.

With all of this communication happening behind the scenes, you might wonder why you aren’t hearing from me more often. Put simply, circumstances are changing too quickly. A message I might send out in the morning could contain information that would be out of date by the afternoon. I remain committed to keeping our community updated, but only when I have a clear message with firm facts to communicate — otherwise, I run the risk of causing more confusion rather than clearing up confusion. That being said, I strongly encourage you to reach out to me, your child’s principal, or the school nurse with any questions you might have.

At-home test kits available at B-P schools

During the holiday break, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state would make at-home test kits available to students and families through local schools. Broadalbin-Perth has received these kits, and we are ready to distribute them starting immediately. You may request test kits through a form on ParentSquare, and you have the option of picking up the kits from school or having them sent home with your child. You may use these kits on any member of your household — they are not just for students.

These tests should be used for monitoring only. If someone in your family has a positive test result using an at-home kit, that individual must seek a PCR (send-out) test at an urgent care center, their primary care doctor’s office, or another testing facility to confirm the diagnosis. Anyone who tests positive using an at-home kit should stay home and isolate themselves from other members of the family. Click here to view a video about how the at-home tests are administered.

Note, these test kits may NOT be used for students who have been identified as contacts of COVID-positive individuals to “test to stay” in school; FCPH has not adopted that policy for our public schools.

You may also choose to enroll your child in our weekly voluntary COVID testing program, which is designed to monitor for COVID in people who are not displaying any symptoms (asymptomatic infection). Click here to learn more about B-P’s voluntary COVID testing program and enroll your child.

I firmly believe that the social and emotional health of our students is just as important as their physical health. We have all seen the devastating effects of this pandemic on the social and emotional health of children in our community and beyond. In my opinion, the best way to care for our students’ social and emotional well-being is to make their lives as “normal” as possible. That means keeping them in school. We must all do our part to achieve this goal. I promise you that we as a school district will continue to do our part. As parents and caregivers, you can do your part by keeping your children home when they are sick, using the at-home test kits, and reminding your children to continue to do the basics we’ve all been practicing for nearly two years: washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing face coverings, and maintaining social distancing outside the home.

Thank you for continuing to do your part.

Stephen M. Tomlinson in cursive
Stephen Tomlinson
Superintendent of Schools