Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson discussed the COVID-19 testing measures in place for students during the recent virus surge.
“We have a plan in place that would provide every family with rapid test kits for the children, so all of the children in our school district will need to take a rapid test on the Sunday before they return to school,” she said in an interview with HCV last week.
“And then on both Monday and Friday of that first week, I believe it’s the week of January 3rd, we will select a large pool – which we do every single week only on Fridays – of students and also staff members, they are tested using a PCR test.”
She also said that the testing pool is typically about five percent of the school’s population and that school officials are hopeful the two rounds of testing will catch any positives early.
Although new hospitalizations and deaths remain relatively low throughout the state, the New Jersey Department of Health has reported thousands of new cases daily since the infectious Omicron variant became prevalent earlier this month.
As of this morning, they reported 756 new COVID-19 cases in Hudson County established via PCR testing. Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is one of many breakthrough cases, describing his symptoms as mild, which he attributed to being vaccinated and boosted.
In the Hoboken Public Schools, Johnson estimated that about 40 percent of elementary students are vaccinated, compared to around 20 percent for middle and high school students, respectively.
At the elementary level, it’s not uncommon for teachers to conduct lessons remotely after they test positive, while middle and high school students who are quarantined typically work out of Google Classroom.
About a week-and-a-half ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control advocated for districts to adopt a “test-to-stay” option for unvaccinated students, which allows them to continue in-person learning as long as they do not test positive for five days in a row.
Johnson said that while the district is aware of the recommendation, it’s ultimately up to the state to decide if it can be implemented or not.
“We have to see how that plays out, because right now, school districts in New Jersey can’t adopt that strategy until it’s authorized or until we’re told by the State of New Jersey that we can implement it,” she explained.
“If we can implement it, the district will get behind the test-to-stay strategy to mitigate the number of kids who would be home on quarantine.”