Greenfield School Department requires student-athletes to undergo routine COVID-19 testing

Staff Writer
Published: 9/14/2021 9:39:12 PM

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield School Department has joined a growing number of communities to require its student-athletes to participate in routine COVID-19 testing.

“Testing is one of our best mitigation strategies,” school nurse Kelly Savitri told School Committee members at their Tuesday night meeting. 

The school will have three levels of COVID-19 testing available for the school body: rapid testing, which will be used as needed for students who demonstrate symptoms; a “test and stay” protocol, which will be used for students who are identified as close contacts with a positive COVID-19 case but who do not show symptoms; and finally, weekly pooled testing, which is the system that will be required of all athletes, following the School Committee’s vote this week. 

For non-athletes, pooled testing is not mandatory and parents are asked to opt-in their students.

Savitri proposed Tuesday night that the School Committee consider mandating routine COVID-19 “safety checks” for all middle school and high school students who participate in athletics as well as all other extra-curricular activities; however, since only athletes were on the agenda for discussion, the committee could only deliberate a mandate for athletics, or risk violating Open Meeting Law. 

Superintendent Christine DeBarge – who has the authority to make operational decisions related to COVID-19 safety without approval by the School Committee – said the district is, however, discussing the potential of requiring participation in pooled testing for students to participate in all other extracurriculars.

As part of her proposal, Savitri noted that Frontier Regional School and Mohawk Trail Regional School districts have already adopted similar proposals. The Gill-Montague School District was expected to consider it Wednesday evening. 

The proposal also acknowledges that many of the modifications put into place last year by the MIAA have been lifted.

“Transmission happens in sports,” she said. 

Athletic director Mike Kuchieski, who supported the initiative, noted Greenfield athletics are still following certain protocols, particularly in terms of sanitization and maintaining distance where possible. 

“I can only say for football – where I'm at – the kids are aware … that we’re seperated in drills and never more than 10 minutes together in the same drill,” he said. “I think all our kids are aware of those things, not just football – field hockey, soccer. I think… everybody understands what’s going on.”

Savitri said not only would pooled testing among Greenfield athletes demonstrate continuity between schools that participate in co-op teams, participation in pooled testing allows for a faster response to positive cases. 

Administrators had explained earlier in the meeting that due to delays from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education – largely related to staffing – pooled testing had not yet arrived to the district.  

“I’m imagining going forward that as soon as we do have pooled testing – which I’m hoping is going to be very quickly – it would be a requirement for athletes that they would participate in the pooled testing happening district-wide in their schools,” Savitri said. 

In other words, it wouldn’t take up additional time in their day. 

School Committee member Katie Caron said she fears for potential scenarios in which a student is OK with routine testing, but does not receive permission from a parent. 

“I would say we can do individual outreach,” DeBarge said. “It’s reasonable for some families to still have questions about what’s involved and what it would look like in school.” 

DeBarge said notification of the mandate will be included in the weekly update to families and it will also be posted to the district’s website. 

“If the coaches are concerned that we will have challenges notifying, at first, the athletes … we can do paper notification for the people involved in those activities,” she said.

Mary Byrne can be reached at Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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