Each Long Island student is expected to receive a COVID-19 rapid test from the state before returning to school next week, a school official said Monday.
The Island should get more than 420,000 tests for students later this week, said Robert Dillon, district superintendent for Nassau BOCES, following a call with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office on Monday.
"One test for one kid," Dillon said. "We were also told that there will be enough tests for the teachers."
Dillon said the test kits will be delivered to each BOCES throughout the state, with the number of tests based on enrollment from last school year, "so the [2020-21] enrollment provides the exact number of tests for the students."
The 56 Nassau County districts can pick up the tests after the state delivers them Thursday, Dillon said. They will be stored at BOCES’ facility in Syosset.
The districts will have to decide how the tests get into the hands of parents, Dillon said. Officials from Eastern Suffolk BOCES and Western Suffolk BOCES could not be reached for comment on Monday.
"The governor’s goal is that hopefully these tests will be administered by the parents at home before the children arrive [from break] on Monday," Dillon said. "The state realizes that there are many, many obstacles with this. … The hope was that they would be tested and bring their [negative] test results."
The tests are part of a statewide package Hochul announced Monday to help keep children in school after the holiday break.
More than 3 million kits, each with two tests, will be distributed across the state, officials said. Two million tests will go to New York City schools.
The kits will come during a time when an appointment or an over-the-counter test is hard to come by due to demand.
Just days before the holiday recess was to begin last week, several districts on the Island had to pivot to remote learning because of a shortage of staff out sick or in quarantine. The recent surge has spiked fear among some parents and teachers that more school closures may be in store.
In a press briefing earlier Monday, Hochul said the districts can decide how to use the kits.
"Whether it's sending them home with children after the first day, whether they can institute testing in schools, we will leave that up to them," she said.
Hochul said testing is part of her plans to keep schools open. She also urged more parents to get their children vaccinated during the break.
"We want more vaccinated. We want them boosted at some point," Hochul said. "We understand that it is not a good option to say children are going to be returning home again. Subject to possible changes in the future, but right now, that is absolutely where our position is."
State officials said the tests will be distributed to local school districts, BOCES and county hubs.
"Planes with these kits begin arriving [Tuesday]. They will be landing in the state every day this week," Jackie Bray, acting commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said in Hochul's press briefing. "We've got over 100 trucks on the roads from warehouse to warehouse to our hubs."
She said local districts that have higher transmission rates will receive the kits faster.
"We'll be prioritizing delivery based on case rate by district so that we make sure that the kits get to the districts that are seeing the highest level of transmission, as early as possible in the week," Bray said.
Phyllis Harrington, the superintendent in Oceanside and president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, said in a statement Monday that her district is glad to be a part of the solution, but wants more guidance from the governor’s office.
"I think we can all agree that children belong in school," she wrote. "We do need to have clear guidelines from the state on how these tests are to be used, especially if there are limited numbers of them."
With Carol Polsky