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Valley schools to start rapid testing for COVID-19

Elementary schools in the New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) will soon be able to administer rapid COVID-19 tests on-site should students present with symptoms of the virus, to prevent outbreaks and classroom closures.

“Anything to help is good,” says NFSB director general Rob Buttars, who is already dealing with an outbreak at Centennial Park in Chateauguay where three groups have been closed. Ormstown, Heritage, Harmony and St. Willibrord elementary schools have already confirmed at least one positive case so far this year.

Buttars says training videos and instructions are being sent out, and he expects schools will be able to start testing students who develop symptoms during the day (with parental consent) within the next couple of weeks.

He admits there is a certain level of anxiety in the elementary schools being felt by staff, administrators and parents alike. “It’s tough,” he says of the need to remain extra vigilant. “What is working for us is that teachers now have experience working in this type of environment, and the students do as well.”

When a positive case is identified, the Direction du Santé Publique de la Montérégie is now closely investigating the risk of exposure, explains Buttars, who notes that the role being played by the regional health authority represents a big change from last year. “It is an adjustment,” he says, saying that Santé Publique is even overstepping the Education Ministry in some cases, such as the recent gathering of personal information of employees to determine vaccination coverage among NFSB staff.

Buttars says he understands through word-of-mouth that the vast majority of employees are committed to vaccination, and he makes no effort to hide his support for the vaccines “as a way to work through this pandemic.”

He is especially pleased that over 100 doses were administered as part of a recent school vaccination campaign, including 47 at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School alone. “Many of the students had been debating whether or not to get this done,” he says, adding that while some of the students rolled up their sleeve for the first time, most were receiving their second dose.

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