Crankshaw: At least 77% of GJSD staff vaccinated

From left, GJSD Board of Education President Chris Tallon and district Superintendent William Crankshaw make a couple of points during the meeting Thursday night at the Knox Building.

JOHNSTOWN — Since the start of weekly mandatory testing for unvaccinated school district staff on Oct. 15, the Greater Johnstown School District has tested 57 staff members and five students with the consent of their parents, according to Superintendent William Crankshaw’s COVID-19 report to the school board Thursday night.

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Crankshaw said, out of those tested, the GJSD found five new COVID-19 cases, three among staff and two among students. He reported these COVID-19 numbers per school building to the school board:

• Johnstown Junior Senior High School — one school staff member tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in three COVID-19 quarantines, and one student tested positive resulting in 19 student quarantines.

• Pleasant Avenue Elementary School — one staff member was positive, resulting in one staff quarantine and 11 students quarantined.

• Warren Street Elementary School — one staff member was positive, which resulted in one staff quarantine and six student quarantines.

Crankshaw said the results appear to be better than during the first two weeks of school when eight total new COVID-19 cases at the GJSD resulted in 120 student quarantines.

“That’s a lot better than the 120 we saw [reported in the] paper,” Crankshaw said. “So, a lot of effort is going into keeping kids in school. We don’t have the numbers for this current week yet because the testing results will come back next week.”

Over the last several weeks, school districts have begun implementing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s coronavirus pandemic mandate requiring all public school district employees to either receive a COVID-19 vaccination shot or agree to weekly COVID-19 testing. School district employees who refuse to consent to testing face being placed on unpaid leave.

“As far as COVID vaccination and testing mandates, it’s going pretty well, all things considered for both students and staff in general,” Crankshaw said. “We are using [a state grant to pay for testing], HFM-BOCES has arranged to hire a company called Quadrant [Biosciences] to provide this PCR testing to our faculty, staff and students.”

PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction testing, which is considered to be the most accurate form of COVID-19 testing because it detects portions of the genetic material of the virus itself, which usually takes a few days to get results, compared to the so-called rapid test, which can show evidence of proteins associated with the coronavirus in less than 30 minutes, but is more prone to false positives.

GJSD Board of Education President Chris Tallon, who was the only member of the school board not to wear a mask at any time Thursday night in apparent defiance of Hochul’s school mask mandate, asked whether the results of the tests administered at the school district go to the state Dept. of Health’s COVID-19 positivity tracker dashboard index.

“Does it go toward how they [calculate] that positivity by county?” Tallon asked.

“You know, that’s interesting, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I can find out,” Crankshaw said.

“Good, those could help our numbers,” Tallon said, implying more testing might lower Fulton County’s persistently high 7-day COVID-19 positivity percentage, which is based on the number of COVID-19 positive cases measured against the total number of tests performed on residents of the county.

Fulton County has either ranked the highest among the state’s 62-counties or among the top six over the last month, consistently showing about three times New York state’s 62-county average positivity.

As of late September, the GJSD was reporting that out of 243 staff members, 138 had told the district they were vaccinated, while 105 had still not indicated their vaccination status. Since then, according to Crankshaw’s report Thursday night, the total number of confirmed unvaccinated staff is now no more than 57.

During his report, Crankshaw did not say how many, if any, staff members have refused the testing, but he thanked school district employees and parents for the cooperation with the mandate.

Crankshaw said the Foothills Athletic Council is indicating indoor athletics will likely require masks for “high risk” sports and that will include spectators.

“I know Foothills is still talking about this, but most likely there will be a limit on indoor spectators, probably 2 to 4 per home-athlete, to start, with 3-feet of physical distancing inside, and testing of at least 10% of all of our students who are in those high-risk athletics as a condition of our participation,” he said. “I think that’s the worst of it, I think, but that’s currently where we are.”

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By Jason Subik

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