Students wearing masks board a school bus outside New Explorations...

Students wearing masks board a school bus outside New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Brittainy Newman

More than 2 million at-home COVID-19 tests will be available for school districts by early January to help test children so they can stay in school, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday.

The tests would enable a child exposed at school to someone with COVID-19 to be tested at home and soon return to school — rather than quarantine for days — if they test negative. "There's no reason why we have to have such a disruption," Hochul said.

The governor’s announcement on test-to-stay plans came as the number of new daily COVID-19 cases reported statewide, 28,924, again set a record. The surge fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant has forced several Long Island school districts in the past week to turn to remote learning just before the holiday break.

Two high schools in the Levittown school district and two more in the Sewanhaka Central High School District recently announced that classes were going remote.

"We saw how devastating this experiment was in having children work remotely, and the stress was on the teachers and the parents," Hochul said during a news briefing. "We just can't set these kids back again."

Hochul said any county can implement the test-to-stay program but didn’t specify how it would be rolled out on the local level.

Nassau County is yet to announce whether it would adopt it, said Alyssa Zohrabian, a spokeswoman for county’s health department.

The Suffolk County Health Department said in a statement that it is "reviewing the state’s guidance and will coordinate any program implementation with the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association."

While supporters of test-to-stay said the strategy would reduce the number of children in quarantine and minimize schooling disruptions, others are concerned about the lack of resources to implement such testing.

Under the test-to-stay protocol, unvaccinated children who test negative twice in the week following exposure can stay in school.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which endorsed the test-to-stay approach Friday, noted that it may not be for every district. "Because test-to-stay can be resource intensive, it may not be a viable option for every school," the federal agency said.

Hochul pointed to Grand Island Central School District in Erie County, which ran a pilot test-to-stay program, as a successful example.

"We saw this work in Grand Island, and we were watching what happened on Grand Island for the rest of the state," she said. "And it was a great a pilot for us to know that this is important."

In Levittown, MacArthur High School and Division Avenue High School will pivot to a remote schedule Thursday due to a what school officials called "COVID-related staffing shortages."

In the Sewanhaka district, two of its five high schools switched to virtual learning Tuesday and Wednesday due to the number of quarantining staff. District officials declined to specify the number of people in quarantine at Floral Park Memorial High in Floral Park and H. Frank Carey High in Franklin Square. But in a school report that tracks positive COVID-19 cases, the two schools reported a tripling of confirmed cases when compared with the previous week.

In the week of Dec. 13, Floral Park High recorded 52 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 41 of which were among students. H. Frank Carey High had 29 cases, including 20 students who reported sick.

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