School District Cuts Ties With COVID Testing Group, Positive Cases Increase

The school district has cut ties with the organization that has been administering weekly COVID-19 tests to students and staff due to issues with the test processing, a school district administrator said.

The district has also stopped dealing with the lab processing the tests, the administrator said.

That decision comes in the wake of the death from the virus of a long-time lunch aide, and a growing number of positive coronavirus tests among school staff, contractors and students.

The increasing number of coronavirus cases in the schools may force the schools to close again, the schools Superintendent said in a letter to parents, staff and students released late on December 11.

The organization collecting samples for the tests was Interfaith Urgent Care, said district spokeswoman Mary Clark. The lab processing the samples was Lab Q, she said.

Interfaith Urgent Care has also been used by the township to provide free COVID-19 and antibody tests, and free flu shots in the township.

“It is our understanding that some of the tests performed recently by the outside testing organization in our schools and processed by a lab which they utilize, were not processed, resulting in the inability for individuals to obtain their results,” Clark said in an email. “At this time the district has suspended Covid testing in our schools while we seek alternate testing opportunities.”

“We will be exploring other vendors and ways that we might be able to offer testing opportunities to our staff and student families,” she wrote.

Clark did not say how long the process of choosing another testing company and lab would take.

Meanwhile, another four school-related positive coronavirus test results have been reported since December 9: two faculty members, a student and an outside vendor.

That brings to 37 the total number of school-related coronavirus cases.

Here is the latest chart released by the district:

In a December 11 letter to parents, staff and students, schools Superintendent John Ravally said that none of the coronavirus cases are the result of in-school transmission.

“Thankfully, as of today, the Somerset County Department of Health through contact tracing has not linked any cases to school transmission,” Ravally wrote. “Although we are in the ‘High Risk’ orange region, no cases have been linked to school transmission and, at this point, the local and county public health officials are not expressing concern about our schools’ remaining open.”

Ravally wrote that should the number of school-related coronavirus cases continue to increase, “we are not certain … that we will have the ability to sustain operations. We will be discussing this very matter with our Covid-19 Restart and Reopen Committee in the near future and we continue to look closely at the data we are collecting with regard to operations.”

“Meanwhile, I want to assure you that all of the strategies and safety protocols we have put in place are being followed and are closely monitored by staff and administration,” Ravally wrote. “Again, I want to thank our staff who are all doing an excellent job in each individual classroom, following protocols and making sure students are well protected in each classroom. Thanks to our extraordinary students who are closely following all guidelines, we are seeing a high level of compliance when and where action is needed on their part.”

In his letter, Ravally also identified teh staff member who died from teh virus, although the district earlier in the week said it could not release information about personnel.

“In closing, I want to take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Barbara Upshaw,” Ravally wrote. “Ms. Barbara, as she was known to most, served as a dedicated support staff member in the Franklin Township Public School System for more than two decades.”

“I realize, since last Spring, many families have been impacted by the loss of a loved one” Ravally wrote. “I also know how hard it is to lose a loved one, especially under these circumstances. On behalf of the Franklin Township Public Schools, I wish to extend condolences to the Upshaw family and to all of our Franklin families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.”

“We continue to monitor guidance documents and continue to update our school plans as needed,” Ravally wrote. “The most updated Covid-19 school plans can be found on our district website under the title, FTPS Restart and Recovery Plan.”

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