Coronavirus Testing Anticipated for Pottsgrove Teachers

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Fast, on-site testing for coronavirus infection among Pottsgrove School District faculty members and staff is “in the works,” with the district and Montgomery County Office of Public Health collaborating to make it available as soon as possible, maybe even before month’s end, Superintendent Dr. William Shirk said during Tuesday’s (Jan. 12, 2021) school board meeting.

Testing programs are in trials by the county now in two other county districts, and are expected to be quickly rolled out elsewhere, Shirk reported.

Shirk called the tests “another layer of defense” that would help keep district employees and students safer as Pottsgrove continues its use of hybrid (both part-time in-person and online) learning, and solely online education. Tests for virus positivity would be available to all faculty members “every week if they want it,” he said, as well as for anyone who may need it, such as students and employees who develop illness symptoms.

He also noted that teachers, first, and then bus drivers, cafeteria workers, aides, secretaries and other school employees would be in line to receive coronavirus vaccinations beginning possibly by late January. However, the rate of immunization likely will depend on the availability of vaccines, which have been slower than hoped to arrive.

“That will really help us in the mitigation process,” Shirk said. Vaccinations of Pottsgrove school nurses started last week, he added.

In addressing what the developments might mean for the return of students to school buildings, Shirk said he believed families’ confidence in returning their children to school would grow “as the COVID piece gets better.” Currently, according to figures Shirk cited, 55 percent of all elementary students rely on hybrid education, but far fewer similarly attend in the middle and high schools.

Shirk declared himself “cautiously optimistic” about the eventual transition of students to more in-person settings. “As long as we can function, we’re not shutting down our schools,” he said, but acknowledged state regulations on social distancing and other protective measures would have to change significantly before more students could “move back in.”

Putting all the pieces in place will take time, Shirk admitted, and added, “patience is going to be important.”

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani via Unsplash, used under license