Ridgefield schools to screen grades K-6 for COVID

Unvaccinated students in kindergarten through sixth grade will have the option to undergo weekly COVID-19 screenings starting Sept. 13. The announcement came from Ridgefield Public Schools' COVID-19 liaison Aaron Crook during a Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Unvaccinated students in kindergarten through sixth grade will have the option to undergo weekly COVID-19 screenings starting Sept. 13. The announcement came from Ridgefield Public Schools’ COVID-19 liaison Aaron Crook during a Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Screen capture / Ridgfield.org

RIDGEFIELD — Unvaccinated students in kindergarten through sixth grade can undergo weekly COVID-19 screenings starting Sept. 13.

The announcement came from Ridgefield Public Schools’ COVID-19 liaison Aaron Crook during a Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Using federal dollars, Connecticut’s education and health departments are offering free COVID-19 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.

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 voluntary.

Ridgefield Public Schools requires students and staff districtwide to wear masks when they return to school regardless of vaccination status.

“One extra layer of mitigation to add to the elementary school and sixth-grade situation is to do weekly screening tests knowing that as many as 40 percent of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic,” Crook said.

The vendor will notify the district and the child’s parents of a positive test and begin contact tracing protocols.

Superintendent Susie Da Silva said the testing should take about a minute per student “from beginning to end.” She added, however, that results may come back within 72 hours due to laboratory backlogs across the state.

Other logistics like when and where the tests will take place are still up in the air. But Crook said the district would prioritize the students’ time in the classroom.

“We wouldn’t want large groups of kids waiting in long lines to get tested and missing class time,” he said.

Board member Rachel Ruggeri asked if the program would provide diagnostic tests to symptomatic students outside of the weekly testing window. While it exists strictly for screening purposes, Da Silva said Ridgefield’s COVID task force has discussed reopening a local testing site in town, if necessary.

Safe return plan

The district’s safe return plan was posted to the its website earlier this month. A key at the top of the document indicates changes and additions to the plan based on “everchanging” guidance from the state, Da Silva said.

One such change is reducing the space of social distance from six feet to three feet, which applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated students when they’re sitting at their desks with masks on.

Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Elizabeth Hannaway said the plan accounts for minimal quarantines considering high vaccination rates among staff, as well as students in grades 7-12.

“However, we recognize that delta is not the same COVID that we were dealing with last school year, and so we’re prepared to shift our model, particularly at the secondary level,” she added.

Ridgefield students return to classrooms for full, in-person learning Monday and Tuesday — no virtual or hybrid model will be offered.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com