Nurses in Hartford Public Schools now trained to give COVID tests to students, district preparing for hybrid learning if cases spike

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hartford Public Schools has unveiled a plan to test students for coronavirus in schools as the district sets up a plan to move to hybrid learning if cases continue to rise. 

Not all kids went back to school after Labor Day. Some opted for remote learning, and the district will switch to a hybrid model if cases spike this fall. 

To be clear, there are no plans in place to do away with in-person learning right now, the superintendent says. But the district has always had a plan to quickly transition to a hybrid before it would move exclusively online. And officials say they are prepared to do that if needed.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and city leaders announced Thursday that school nurses have now been trained to perform tests in schools.

“Their first focus is going to be on any students who are symptomatic,” explained Bronin. “They will also likely test, or make available testing and collection, in schools for any students in that cohort who might have been exposed.”

From there, Hartford HealthCare and Trinity Health of New England will collect and process the tests.

The hope is to better protect everyone.

“It’s being responsive,” explained Torres-Rodriguez. “It’s being responsive to the pandemic and to what our staff and our families continue to express to us, [which is] the need for having testing that is readily and easily available.”

There will also be increased mobile testing events on school grounds. Anyone who wants to get tested at one of these mobile testing sites will be able to. 

Both Bronin and Dr. Torres-Rodriguez said they’re watching the numbers closely.

“We will pay attention to that daily count in the city,” said Bronin. “We’ll also pay attention to whether that spread is happening in schools and whether we’re seeing student-to-student transmission or staff-to-student transmission.”

Dr. Torres-Rodriguez added no changes are in the works for the city’s learning plan, but the district is preparing for every possible scenario. One way they will do that is by getting devices into the hands of every student who needs it. So far, Dr. Torres-Rodriguez said they have distributed more than 13,000 devices to their students.

Hartford Public Schools also announced a new partnership with the UConn School of Social Work to provide additional “social-emotional and wellness support to staff and students,” as they continue to navigate these challenging and changing times.

Hartford and New Haven have the highest numbers of hospitalizations in the state. There are currently 21 hospitalized with the virus in Hartford and more than 1,000 have died. 

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