COVID-19 testing needs to ramp up dramatically in order to bring more kids back into the classroom, the New York State United Teachers on Thursday said, as many school districts are yet to fully reopen amid the pandemic.
The organization, a statewide umbrella labor group, pointed testing models put in place by New York City schools, the State University of New York system and by the National Football League that can be potentially replicated or expanded for students.
“Educators want to be in the classroom with their students, but they want to do that safely. Identifying asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 in particular is critical to bolstering school safety plans,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said.
“Yet far too few districts have a testing regimen up and running. That is unacceptable. If the nation’s largest school district, the nation’s largest university system and the nation’s biggest professional sport can do it, there’s no reason we can’t figure out how to implement testing for schools statewide.”
The labor group pointed to a poll of members outside of New York City that found 74% of teachers reported their districts were not regualrly testing, while 18% said tests of students and staff was happening regularly. Only 2% said their districts are testing most students and staff.
The push for increasing testing in schools comes as President Joe Biden, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have called for schools to begin fully reopen nearly a year after shutting down to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pediatricians, too, have warned of the effect of the mental health effects of keeping children isolated from socialization for a long period of time.
Many schools in recent months have turned to a hybrid model of some students remaining at home and others returning to the classroom for at least part of the week.