EDITORIAL: Accurate testing vital to success of school reopening

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion

• Districts not conducting their own testing.

• Not enough staff to track down all the information that will be valuable to monitoring the spread of the virus in schools.

• Inherent delays in reporting results because test results take time to come back from the labs.

• Reliance on outside agencies for assistance and cooperation.

• Not enough clarity from the state as to how to collect the information the state wants in the time frame and form it wants it all delivered.

• The governor demanding immediate, real-time information to post on a statewide online database.

If you’re a parent or a school official looking for clarity on how the coronavirus is spreading throughout your school or school district as the reopening unfolds this week, you’re probably out of luck.

There are just too many variables, too many conflicting directives, and really a whole lot else for school district officials to be focusing on in addition to collecting and reporting data.

It’s a challenge for sure.

But accurate data about the spread of the virus in schools is vital to ensuring that our children get the education they need in the safest manner possible.

And no matter what reasons districts have for not collecting it all in the manner Gov. Andrew Cuomo envisions, and no matter what overly rigid standards the state sets for reporting, school officials have to do their best to get as much of that information in their hands and to the public as accurately and quickly as possible.

If they don’t prioritize data gathering, all the other work they’re doing to educate students while keeping them safe will be wasted.

The data drives the education process.

It guides the implementation and adaptation of the schools’ safety measures to changing circumstances.

The districts’ reopening plans and the state’s evaluation of their efforts rests on the thoroughness and accuracy of the information that districts collect.

The state’s Covid Report Cards on school performance — which can be found at https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/ — won’t immediately provide a true picture of each district’s success in curbing the spread.

The public, parents and everyone with an interest in this need to understand that.

But the districts’ struggles in doing surveys and getting back test results and doing contract tracing shouldn’t stop them from trying their best to provide the truest picture possible.

There’s too much at stake to allow excuses — even legitimate ones — to detract from our children’s safety and education.

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