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School-Based COVID-19 Testing

Guidance on the Use of COVID-19 Antigen Test Kits

This winter, the Ithaca City School District has distributed COVID-19 antigen test kits, provided to us by New York State, to all students and staff. Each kit includes two tests. Click here to view our guidance on when to use the at-home test.

 
The ICSD is offering school-based COVID-19 testing during the 2021-22 school year to support the health of our school community by reducing the risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Our testing program consists of two different types of COVID-19 testing: screening testing and symptomatic testing.
  • SCREENING TESTING: The ICSD is partnering with Concentric by Ginko, a federally contracted organization, to offer weekly screening testing (formerly "surveillance testing") for students. This type of testing is used to understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in our school community, identify asymptomatic individuals, and inform decision-making on district health and safety protocols and practices.

  • SYMPTOMATIC TESTING
    • Antigen: Antigen testing is now available for symptomatic students at school who are fever-free (< 100°F) without the use of fever-reducing medications, free from diarrhea or vomiting in the last 24 hours, without a known exposure to someone with COVID-19, and well enough to remain in school while wearing a high-quality mask. A negative antigen test result will allow mildly symptomatic students to remain in school while awaiting confirmatory PCR test results or while completing two additional days of antigen testing. School nurses will communicate with caregivers regarding their clinical assessment of the student, options for testing, and masking requirements.

    • PCR: The ICSD, in affiliation with Cayuga Health System, is also offering symptomatic PCR testing for students who become unwell at school. Swabbing occurs before the symptomatic individual leaves campus, and the test result is available afterward. This is an anterior nares sample (swab at the front of each nostril, not far-reaching up the nasal cavity) that students can administer themselves or with the help of a nurse.

All COVID-19 tests are provided at no cost, and participation is voluntary.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

TESTING OVERVIEW + CONSENT
Why implement a testing program?
Is participation in testing required for school attendance?
How do I provide consent for my student to be tested? (updated 5/4/22)
What happens if I do not consent to my child getting tested?
How do employees consent to participate in screening testing? (updated 1/21/22)

SCREENING TESTING
Can you tell me more about Concentric? (new 12/6/21)
With the transition to Concentric, do I need to provide consent again if I had done so previously? (updated 1/21/22)
How does screening testing work at the elementary level?
How does screening testing work at the secondary level? (updated 1/7/22)
What is the screening testing schedule? (updated 5/27/22)
How are samples collected for screening testing?
How long does it take to receive screening test results? (updated 12/6/21)
How do I receive screening test results? (updated 1/28/22)

SYMPTOMATIC TESTING - ANTIGEN
How does antigen testing work? (added 5/4/22)
Who qualifies for antigen testing? (added 5/4/22)
If the antigen test result is negative, does my child need another test to confirm the result? (added 5/4/22)
What if the antigen test result is positive? (added 5/6/22)


SYMPTOMATIC TESTING - PCR
How does symptomatic testing work?
How are samples collected for symptomatic testing?
How long does it take to receive symptomatic test results?
How do I view symptomatic test results?
If the result is positive, does my child need another test to confirm the result?
 
TESTING OVERVIEW + CONSENT

Q

Why implement a testing program?

A

The ICSD is incorporating testing as part of our comprehensive approach to reducing transmission. Symptom screening, testing, and contact tracing are strategies to identify people infected with SARS-CoV-2 so that we may take actions to slow and stop the spread of the virus.

The goals of our testing program are to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, reduce out-of-school time, and alleviate barriers to testing (e.g., transportation, testing site operating hours).

Q

Is participation in testing required for school attendance?

A

No. Our testing program is voluntary. A parent or guardian must provide consent in order for their child(ren) to participate in screening and/or symptomatic testing.

Q

How do I provide consent for my student to be tested?

A

Screening Testing: Caregivers who would like to provide consent for their child/ren to participate in screening testing and haven't already must either- Symptomatic PCR Testing: Caregivers who would like to provide consent for their child/ren to participate in symptomatic testing should search for an email from healthalerts@icsd.k12.ny.us with a customized link to an online consent form or download and complete the consent form from our Health Services & Wellness webpage to submit to the school nurse.

Symptomatic Antigen Testing: Consent for school-based rapid, point-of-care (antigen) testing can be provided using this online consent form: Caregiver Consent for Symptomatic COVID-19 Testing (Antigen Testing).

Q

What happens if I do not consent to my child getting tested?

A

All testing is voluntary. Your child will not be required to be tested if you do not consent. We strongly encourage providing consent for testing, as it is non-invasive and can support community health. Feel free to reach out to your child’s school nurse and/or principal if you have questions.

Q

How do employees consent to participate in screening testing?

A

Staff who would like to participate in screening testing and haven't already registered must either-
 
SCREENING TESTING

Q

Can you tell me more about Concentric?

A

Concentric by Ginkgo is our new support partner who will support onboarding, training, and the new collection and reporting portal – they are the “new” Affinity Empowering. Concentric--
  • Runs 10 active K-12 state-sponsored COVID-19 testing programs
  • Serves 18 states with COVID-19 testing 
  • Collects 220,000 samples weekly 
  • Manages the collection and reporting portal

Q

With the transition to Concentric, do I need to provide consent again if I had done so previously?

A

No, all consents provided up through November 24, 2021, will be uploaded into the platform maintained by Concentric by Ginkgo. Any new participants will be able to complete either print or digital consent forms.

The print forms are available in multiple languages (below). Please complete the form and return it to your school nurse.

The online registration site for caregivers consenting for minors is testcenter.concentricbyginkgo.com/minor-consent. The online registration site for staff is testcenter.concentricbyginkgo.com/invite-by-code. Each school's access code can be found below.

School Access Codes
  • Belle Sherman: XDBM41
  • Beverly J. Martin: Y1PDLO
  • Boynton: 2KDSFN
  • Caroline: LK8X9Z
  • Cayuga Heights: KZ8T2Q
  • DeWitt: VDC3M0
  • Enfield: 67CBGW
  • Fall Creek: UA1L70
  • Ithaca High School: GA45R3
  • LACS: E5BIRP
  • Northeast: 6V5YEK
  • South Hill: GLX8O4

Q

How does screening testing work at the elementary level?

A

Each week, a district-wide team consisting of retired nurses, administrators, and others travel to classrooms to supervise sample collection by class. Depending on the number of consented students in a class, the team will either (a) welcome students to the hallway to collect samples or (b) work with students to collect samples in the classroom.

Two samples are collected from each student - one for pooled testing purposes and one for individual testing purposes - and students can self-sample or one of the team members can collect a sample for them. The team ensures the samples are in the correct acceptable and labeled correctly, and then move on to the next classroom.

Q

How does screening testing work at the secondary level?

A

Each week, a district-wide team consisting of retired nurses, administrators, and others supervises sample collection in a stationary area. Students are invited to get tested during their study halls or lunchtimes or during class.

Two samples are collected from each student - one for pooled testing purposes and one for individual testing purposes - and students can self-sample or one of the team members can collect a sample for them. The team ensures the samples are in the correct acceptable and labeled correctly.

Q

What is the screening testing schedule?

A

We currently conduct testing at two school buildings each day, Monday through Thursday. The screening testing schedule for the current month is outlined below.
 
June 2022
Subject to change
Tues, 5/31 South Hill Enfield
Weds, 6/1 Belle Sherman LACS
Thurs, 6/2 IHS DeWitt
Mon, 6/6 Northeast BJM
Tues, 6/7 Boynton Caroline
Weds, 6/8 Cayuga Heights Fall Creek
Thurs, 6/9 South Hill Enfield
Mon, 6/13 Belle Sherman LACS
Tues, 6/14 IHS DeWitt
Weds, 6/15 Northeast BJM
Thurs, 6/16 Boynton Caroline
 

Q

How are samples collected for screening testing?

A

Collections are done with what is called a lower anterior nasal swab, which is a collection swab about the size of a Q-tip that is placed just into the lower part of the nose and swirled around 3 times to collect the sample. This approach is much more comfortable and is not the collection method where the swab is placed deep into the nose. Students can self-sample or one of the team members can collect a sample for them.

Q

How long does it take to receive screening test results?

A

Two samples are collected from each individual when tested - one for pooled testing and one for individual testing - and overnighted to the testing lab. Generally, results are available in 24 to 48 hours.

With the transition to Concentric, there is no change in testing. Operation Expanded Testing on Concentric’s portal will continue to support both pool and individual testing.

Q

How do I receive screening test results?

A

If you/your child is part of a pool that does not detect COVID-19, you will not get a pooled or individual test result.

If there is a risk that someone in the pool might have COVID-19, every swab in the pool will be processed individually. If your child's individual test result is negative, you will not be notified. If your child's individual test result is positive, you will be notified directly by the district, via email and robocall. Caregivers do not have logins to the portal and will only learn of a positive result via a phone call.

Our schools will also be monitoring results for all students.
 
SYMPTOMATIC TESTING - ANTIGEN

Q

How does antigen testing work?

A

Students with caregiver consent who show signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while at school may be tested in the nurse's office. Antigen test results are available immediately. A negative result will allow mildly symptomatic students to remain in school while awaiting confirmatory PCR test results or while completing two additional days of antigen testing.

School nurses will communicate with caregivers regarding their clinical assessment of the student, options for testing, and masking requirements.

Q

Who qualifies for antigen testing?

A

To qualify for antigen testing, students must be-
  • fever-free (< 100°F) without the use of fever-reducing medications;
  • free from diarrhea or vomiting in the last 24 hours;
  • without a known exposure to someone with COVID-19; and
  • well enough to remain in school while wearing a high-quality mask.

Q

If the antigen test result is negative, does my child need another test to confirm the result?

A

Yes, students who test negative must receive a confirmatory PCR test result or complete two additional days of antigen testing. While awaiting confirmatory results, students may remain in school and must wear a high-quality mask.

Q

What if the antigen test result is positive?

A

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 through antigen testing should self-isolate and follow all protocols outlined by the Tompkins County Health Department. Students/staff who test positive may return to school after 5 days of isolation* if they are symptom-free or their symptoms are resolving, including being fever-free for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medication). Those individuals must also wear a mask in school and other public spaces for 5 additional days (days 6-10).

*Day 0 is the day symptoms start or, if asymptomatic, the day the student tests positive
 
SYMPTOMATIC TESTING - PCR

Q

How does symptomatic testing work?

A

Students with caregiver consent who show signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while at school are tested in the nurse's office before leaving campus to self-isolate at home.

Q

How are samples collected for symptomatic testing?

A

Collections are done with what is called a lower anterior nasal swab, which is a collection swab about the size of a Q-tip that is placed just into the lower part of the nose and swirled around 3 times to collect the sample. This approach is much more comfortable and is not the collection method where the swab is placed deep into the nose. Students can self-sample or the school nurse can collect a sample for them.

Q

How long does it take to receive symptomatic test results?

A

Samples collected at school sites are transported via courier to Cayuga Health System laboratories, and test results are generally available within 24-48 hours. The turnaround time may be subject to change based upon demand and laboratory capacity.

Q

How do I view symptomatic test results?

A

After symptomatic students are tested for COVID-19 at school, the test results are posted on the Cayuga Medical Center Patient Portal. Directions for accessing your results can be found below. If you still have questions about whether your child is cleared to return to school, you may contact the school nurse.

If you have a Patient Portal account:

If you do not have a Patient Portal account:

  • Go to mycayugahealth.cayugamed.org
  • Click on the Sign Up link and fill in the enrollment information
  • Receive an immediate email confirmation and create your login/password
  • Click on Health Record and then Results
If you need assistance with your Patient Portal account, call 607-319-5708 or email mycayugahealthsupport@cayugamed.org. For answers to frequently asked questions regarding testing and results, visit cayugahealthsystem.org/faq.

Q

If the result is positive, does my child need another test to confirm the result?

A

No. The samples collected in school are analyzed using molecular testing technology. These are high-sensitivity, high-specificity tests for diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 infection. If your child's symptomatic testing result is positive, you can expect a phone call from the county health department with further instructions.