Chester School Board Approves Symptomatic COVID Testing

By Alex Malm

The Chester School Board held its regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 3.

During the meeting one of the agenda items was in regards to Symptomatic COVID Testing.

It was explained that after last month’s meeting and in response to feedback they received from the Board, they discussed adopting a new program supported by NH DPHS that will enable our nurses to administer rapid COVID antigen tests while children are in school.

It was explained that Principal Karen Lacroix, and Superintendent Sharon Locke along with interested Chester Academy parents worked together over the last month to finalize the program for Chester Academy.

“The Board very much appreciates the support and collaboration of our C-A parents on this critical issue,” Chester School Board Chairman Royal Richardson said.

The initiative will be managed by the school nurses, and the testing will only be for students whose parents have signed a permission form and develop a COVID-19 symptom during the school day.

“At its monthly meeting last night, the Chester School Board approved a new program supported by NH DPHS that will enable our nurses to administer rapid COVID antigen tests while children are in school. There is currently a nationwide shortage of test kits so testing will be provided based on availability,” a letter from Lacroix and Locke following the meeting stated. “The testing will only be an option for children whose parents have signed a permission form and have developed a COVID-19 symptom during the school day and the nurse determines they may be well enough to remain at school. Students with fevers and/or multiple symptoms will continue to be dismissed from school and be required to seek a COVID-19 test or quarantine before returning.”

“Participation in the symptomatic testing program is completely voluntary and requires a parental permission form,” the letter went onto state. ” An electronic Symptomatic COVID-19 Antigen Test Permission Form will be sent via email early next week to parents/guardians who have completed their 2021-2022 Annual School Registration and COVID Attestation Form. If you have not yet completed this year’s Registration or Attestation or are uncertain, please contact Beth Howard or Ann Parnell in the main office. Paper copies of the permission form will also be available in the main office.’

Also during the meeting the School Board got an update from Locke regarding the COVID transmission level metrics which is part of the Return to School Plan.

It was explained by Locke that the COVID transmission status in Rockingham County and the South Central Public Health Region (Atkinson, Chester, Danville, Derry, Hampstead, Londonderry, Plaistow, Salem, Sandown, Windham) remains substantial, according to the NH DHHS Dashboard.

She said that based on the state’s calculation, the community of Chester is also still demonstrating substantial transmission levels. There were 11 new positive cases over the last 14 days in Chester, she noted.

It was also explained during the meeting that the Chester Academy School nurses are keeping track of COVID symptoms that result in a student being sent home. There were 34 students presenting in the Nurses’ office for nurse identified COVID Symptoms during October. There were 89 students out of school for COVID related symptoms or exposures during October.

Because of the fact that the region remains substantial and the fact that there continues to be a presence of COVID-positive cases in the school, the Board agreed that the current Universal Mask Usage policy for the Chester Academy campus should remain in effect and will be reviewed again in December.

It was also announced during the meeting that the administration has begun working to develop a proposed budget for the 2022 – 2023 School Year with input from the Board. It was also explained that the timeline for Budget development will have the final draft of the budget delivered to the Board in late November for analysis, discussion and finalization during December. The Board will deliver the final version of the proposed Budget to the Chester Budget Committee in January for their analysis and consideration.

The next Chester School Board meeting is slated for Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.