Fairfield schools offer update on COVID protocols and testing

Jill Mitchell, the head nurse administrator for the Town of Fairfield, places a band aid on the arm of David Kean, a music teacher from Rochambeau Middle School, in Southbury, following his COVID-19 vaccination at the Bigelow Center clinic in Fairfield, Conn. March 1, 2021.

Jill Mitchell, the head nurse administrator for the Town of Fairfield, places a band aid on the arm of David Kean, a music teacher from Rochambeau Middle School, in Southbury, following his COVID-19 vaccination at the Bigelow Center clinic in Fairfield, Conn. March 1, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — School officials announced they’ve started administering the district’s first round of at-home COVID test kits on Tuesday.

“We have received an initial supply of COVID-19 self-test kits,” Superintendent Mike Cummings said in a notice to families on Tuesday. “These kits will be distributed to parents/guardians whose child is sent home ill, staff who are feeling ill, and for parents who keep a child home because they have a COVID symptom.”

The district received 4,410 test kits with two tests in each and 1,440 test kits with one test each as part of the 620,000 tests the state gave to public and private K-12 schools Tuesday, according to state data. On Monday, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said they also put some tests aside from the previous town allotment for the schools.

Cummings and Angelus Papageorge, the district’s COVID-19 health and safety compliance liaison, said the district will likely receive more testing kits.

“We are expecting a larger supply of kits and we will work on distribution of those when we have more information,” they said. “Kits for students are to be administered by parents/guardians to determine if your child is negative before returning to school. These tests are not to be used on adults/family members of the school-aged child.”

Students and staff with symptoms or those exposed to a positive case outside of school will need to stay home and test. Parents and guardians must contact their school administration if their child needs to quarantine and tell school nurses about positive cases. Individuals who test positive should isolate for at least five days. Those who test negative and are fully vaccinated or those who have not had contact with a case outside of school may return to school when they are fever-free for 24 hours and other symptoms have “significantly improved,” officials said.

“As fully vaccinated students and staff with no symptoms may continue with in-person learning, the Screen and Stay program is discontinued,” Cummings said.

In-school contact tracing has also been discontinued, Cummings said, adding they’ll continue to notify the community of positive cases through the daily updates.

Students should not come to school while waiting for test results.

Fairfield schools also launched a new COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday to provide more and better information about positive cases. The dashboard is still located on the district website COVID-19 page, along with a short video that outlines the new features. It’s also accessible on mobile devices.

The district will now indicate the classroom for positive elementary cases, the grade for positive middle school cases or the school for high school positive cases.

There are 339 total active cases in the district as of Tuesday for students and staff, 227 of which were added Tuesday. This translates to a total positivity rate of about 3.15 percent, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The news comes a few days after the district announced it will be following the state’s strategies to “vaccinate, test and mitigate” in an effort to keep in-person learning going.

“In-person is where our students learn best and where we can best support their social emotional well-being,” Cummings said in a notice to families over the weekend.

School officials haven’t added mitigating measures of their own but stressed they will be enforcing those outlined by the state.

“We have demonstrated significant success in mitigating the spread of this virus and keeping our schools safe for in-person learning,” Cummings wrote, which includes social distancing.

“We will distance students as much as possible in class and at lunch,” Cummings added. “At the elementary level, students will have snack at alternate, or ‘rolling’ times. Frequent hand washing and sanitizing will continue.”

He said vaccination remains the most important strategy for keeping students in school as it helps prevent the spread and makes the symptoms less severe.

Nearly 50 percent of Fairfield’s 5 to 11 population has received at least one dose and about 35.2 percent have been fully vaccinated as of Dec. 29, according to state data. About 78.64 percent of Fairfield’s 12 to 17 year olds have received at least one dose and 73.83 percent are fully vaccinated.

“Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to support our efforts,” Cummings said. “We appreciate your continued understanding and patience. Better days await us.”