Schools in Greene and Columbia counties embark this week on a great social, health and educational experiment. The 12 school districts in both counties reopened Monday after the holiday recess and are distributing home COVID-19 test kits to 12,000 students. Daunting? You bet.

“These tests have been given to school districts by the state of New York to distribute to families with the goal of keeping our schools open for in-person learning,” New Lebanon Central School District Superintendent Andrew Kourt said Monday. Can anything go wrong? Maybe.

Among the issues is that this is strictly a voluntary offering for parents choosing to participate. The school districts and the health department will be accepting results of the home tests without the benefit of confirmatory testing.

The very real concern is that parents will use the test kits at home, end up with a positive result for their son or daughter and send them to school, especially if they’re asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Another concern is that parents will not use the kits and send their children to school untested.

Essentially, then, the reporting of home test results from parents to the schools and the counties is predicated on an honor system.

The Coxsackie-Athens School District is taking a slightly different approach. In a message to parents, District Superintendent Randall Squire said that once the kits are received by the district that each child would be offered two testing kits, but the district will allow families to opt out of receiving the kits if they do not want them.

Certainty is elusive in the pandemic. Will C-A’s opt-out choice help or hurt the objective of keeping our children in school? We have little recourse now except to wait and see. Will an honor system work? Greene and Columbia counties have 12,000 good reasons to hope it will.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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