Ithaca public schools will reopen for in-person classes on Oct. 5, bolstered by $160,000 worth of COVID-19 testing and analysis donated by Cornell and Cayuga Health, according to a Sept. 29 statement on ICSD’s website.
The donations follow ICSD’s request for assistance, according to a University press release. The tests are voluntary for all students.
The school district’s testing capacity is limited, and appointments for tests are required. The donations provide for 1,212 tests in total: 324 tests on each weekday and 240 tests on Saturday. The number of tests was determined by ICSD, according to University spokesperson Abby Butler.
Due to the limited capacity, testing is limited to ICSD students only. ICSD directed faculty and staff to Tompkins County’s free COVID-19 testing program on weekdays at the Ithaca Mall.
ISCD is the largest school district in Tompkins County, serving 5,264 students from pre-K through 12th grade, according to data from June.
“Offering this COVID-19 testing opportunity for ICSD students is good for our community and is an indication of outstanding partnerships,” said ICSD superintendent Luvelle Brown in a tweet. “We truly are all in this together.”
Samples are assessed by the Cornell COVID-19 Testing Laboratory at the Cornell Vet School and any positive cases will be approved by the Tompkins County Health Department. If there are positive cases among ICSD students, Cornell will help estimate the prevalence of positive cases among the student population, and, along with TCHD, will decide how to move forward. A “small number” of positive cases will not necessarily halt the reopening for in-person instruction, according to ICSD’s website.
Joel Malina, vice president for University relations, emphasized the need to assess the status of the virus among ICSD students.
“Through this joint donation, Cornell and Cayuga Health System will provide the school district with an important and timely snapshot around the prevalence of COVID-19 among its community prior to students returning,” Malina said in the University press release.
ICSD has administered COVID-19 tests to its students since Sept. 30 at the Ithaca Mall, and will continue to test students there through Oct. 2. ICSD will hold their final day of optional re-entry testing on Oct. 3; the location has yet to be announced.
The tests are self-administered collections of anterior nares samples, the same method used by Cornell for surveillance testing of its faculty, staff and students. The testing sites are staffed by Cayuga Health staff and ICSD nurses.
Of the six school districts in the county, ICSD is the only one that has yet to reopen for in-person classes.
But the transition to in-person learning has not been obstacle-free. A student at Groton Junior-Senior High School, in the Groton Central School District in Tompkins County, tested positive for COVID-19 in late September, according to the Ithaca Times, sending 28 students and four teachers into quarantine.