Hundreds of Ridgefield families opt into COVID screening program

More than 370 Ridgefield Public Schools families have opted their children into the district's COVID-19 screening program. Its start date, however, has yet to be determined. Pictured, students arrive at Scotts Ridge Middle School for the second day of class.

More than 370 Ridgefield Public Schools families have opted their children into the district’s COVID-19 screening program. Its start date, however, has yet to be determined. Pictured, students arrive at Scotts Ridge Middle School for the second day of class.

Alyssa Seidman / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — More than 370 Ridgefield families have opted their children into the school district’s COVID-19 screening program. Its start date, however, has yet to be determined.

Using federal dollars, Connecticut’s education and health departments are offering free screenings to every school district in the state. Participating districts are assigned a vendor, which provides individuals to conduct shallow nasal swab tests at each school on a weekly basis.

The program is designed specifically for children who are ineligible to receive the vaccine and is intended to alleviate transmission in the event of a positive case. It is also voluntary.

RPS parents must log in to their PowerSchool portal to enroll their child or children in the program. Screenings are open to students in pre-K through sixth grade, and fully vaccinated students are ineligible to participate.

Only 371 of Ridgefield’s 2,500 eligible students opted into the program as of Wednesday.

The breakdown is: 55 students at Branchville Elementary School; 66 students at Barlow Mountain Elementary School; 21 students at East Ridge Middle School; 42 students at Farmingville Elementary School; 45 students at Ridgebury Elementary School; 58 students at Scotland Elementary School; 26 students at Scotts Ridge Middle School; and 58 students at Veterans Park Elementary School.

Transformative Healthcare will visit the schools to conduct the screenings. Children will be tested in 10-person pods and the swabs will be tested using a single PCR test, explained district nursing coordinator Aaron Crook.

If a pod comes back positive, each of those 10 swabs will be tested individually to determine the positive case. The vendor will notify the district and the child’s parents — via text and email — of a positive test and begin contact tracing protocols.

Testing will take about three minutes per 10-person pod, Crook said, with Transformative Healthcare spending a maximum of one to two hours in each building per week.

Logistics such as where the testing will take place are still being ironed out. Superintendent Susie Da Silva said school principals are “being creative” in finding spaces within their schools.

Da Silva expressed optimism in regards to the program, as it could help prevent more students from having to quarantine. She said that students at the elementary level are now sitting in assigned seats on the bus to ease contact tracing protocols.

“There’s no doubt that (these) families ... have found a great deal of challenge with the number of experiences that they’ve had with being in quarantine,” she added. “Little kids need routine, they need structure, and for every time they’re out of school they lose that.”

Under state guidelines, fully vaccinated individuals exposed to COVID-19 are not required to quarantine unless they have symptoms. Crook said if the FDA approves Pfizer’s request to administer shots to 5-11 year olds, quarantines could drop “dramatically” district-wide.

“If that is the case, I think we can all anticipate COVID life … will be changing quite a bit,” he said.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com