School board members plan to discuss the logistics and use parameters of the proposed site when the safety and security committee meets in January.
Alex Smith, director of student services, briefed the board Monday on a proposal to install a modular office unit next to the district maintenance building, which is across the parking lot from the high school.
The plan is to use electricity from the maintenance building to provide power and heat to the modular unit so that it could be used as the test site from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursday starting in January-February and running at least through May.
Smith suggested the hours to avoid traffic congestion from the middle school and high school during student arrivals and departures.
District administrators have drawn up an agreement with a local ambulance service to provide the personnel to conduct the tests, Smith said. One goal of this initiative is to enable the district to implement a test-to-stay mitigation strategy, he said.
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Test-to-stay enables students and staff to continue in-person learning while minimizing quarantine disruptions on students, families and schools, according to information posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
Knowing the scarcity of resources and the current testing limitations, it would be beneficial to have a site on campus available to test students who may have come into close contact with a COVID-positive person, Smith said. The district is minimizing the potential for disease spread by locating the test site in a unit separate from a school building, he said.
The original plan was to place the order before the holiday break so that the modular unit could be ready for use as early as January after the safety and security committee meets to hash out recommended changes to the district health and safety plan.
But board members Monday voted 5-4 against the motion to acquire the unit. They questioned the wisdom of entering into a rental agreement before all the details are worked out. Though approved earlier in the meeting, the agreement with the ambulance service is on hold pending the outcome of the January committee meeting.
Though the next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 19, committee chairman Rodney Wagner said an earlier meeting could be scheduled for the first week in January.
There was discussion among board members prior to the vote on renting the unit.
“I think it’s a great idea, but there are too many questions at this point,” Terry Draper said. “Who is going to use it? I have concerns about people coming to the campus during the school day.”
There was talk among school administrators Monday of allowing district taxpayers and even the general public to use the test site. It was mentioned that the monthly rental fee could be offset using COVID relief grant money.
Bethanne Sellers said the initial rental of $500 was a small price to pay to make sure that a modular unit was available to use as soon as possible. She said she was confident that the questions could be answered in January.
Draper voted against the motion along with board members Tony Lucido, Robin Scherer, Eric Berry and Shannon Snyder. Voting in favor of the motion was Sellers, Wagner, board president Brad Group and member Bill Hartman.
Following the vote, Sellers repeated her concerns about putting the test site proposal on hold.
“I don’t agree with regrouping,” she said. “My feeling was to move forward. It’s crucial. We’re going to come back from [winter] break with many more cases and we need to be prepared.”
Lucido said that, from the way it sounded, most of the board members who voted no only did so because they had questions and wanted just a few more details.
Email Joseph Cress at email@example.com.