Since reopening last month, local day schools have been diligently trying to maintain safe in-person learning while enforcing guidelines to diminish the spread of COVID-19. With the recent break for the holidays, many feared that increased socializing could lead to a potential uptick of the virus, which would upset the system that schools worked so hard to establish.
Debbie Gottlieb, manager of the Kehilla Cooperative Program for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, understands these concerns and is dedicated to helping local day schools remain open safely amid the pandemic.
The Kehilla Cooperative group purchasing program has helped Jewish day schools save over 5 million dollars by negotiating group discounts for necessary supplies and services, most recently procuring and arranging for the installation of state of the art temperature scanners at 10 area schools.
“A year ago, I never would have imagined my energies being spent helping the day school populations remain safe and healthy and open for in-class teaching. However, the pandemic has required us to be nimble, which is why Kehillah pivoted to focus on procuring COVID-related supplies for our schools, synagogues and agencies,” said Gottlieb.
After speaking with school leaders, Gottlieb understood there is a real need for a local testing site that would allow symptomatic students or teachers to get tested quickly in order to reduce the possible transmission of the virus and the disruption at school.
Gottlieb researched various locations for a testing site and concluded that the majority of day school students live in or around Teaneck, making Holy Name Hospital an ideal choice. She connected with a representative at Holy Name who informed her that they were preparing to launch a drive-through testing site scheduled to open on October 19. After explaining the situation, Holy Name agreed to open the site ahead of schedule on October 13 in order to accommodate students returning to school.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Jewish Federation to provide this important service to students and their families,” said Michele Acito, DNP, RN, NP-C, NE-BC, executive vice president, chief nursing officer at Holy Name Medical Center. “The benefits are two-fold: We can help to reduce risk of a possible spread and also create some much-needed peace of mind during these challenging times.”
Gottlieb praised the staff at Holy Name who helped get this off the ground, saying “They were amazing to work with, responded quickly and have been nothing but wonderful collaborators.”
The drive-in testing process is simple. Each patient needs to complete an online registration form as well as obtain a prescription from a doctor. Once the online registration is completed, the parent will be directed via phone when to arrive for the drive-through test. The parent will enter Parking Lot A at Holy Name Hospital, pull into the first spot and follow the directions posted there. Patients remain in their vehicle while the PCR test is administered and results are expected within 24 hours.
“The collaboration with Holy Name and their ability to provide drive-through screening for our day school population is just one more way Federation has been helping day schools remain open,” said Gottlieb, who believes this service can have a huge ripple effect in the continuity of school. The testing site provides clarity not just for the symptomatic person, but for their classmates as well. To further accommodate the Jewish community, the site will be open on Sundays.
“This is one of those things that you hope never gets used,” said Gottlieb, who added that the reassurance this offers parents is a tremendous benefit during this tentative time. Knowing they have a reliable and convenient place to go for testing eliminates some of the anxiety that comes along with a stressful situation. She has already received many calls from community members thanking Federation for this resource.
Jason Shames, CEO, Jewish Federation, said “Kudos to Debbie Gottlieb and Holy Name Medical Center for creating this important collaboration. Federation has always been very committed to working with community partners to keep our community safe and secure. Our day schools must stay open and we will do whatever we can to help.”
To access registration for the testing site, please visit https://enrollment.holyname.org/COVID19. The site will be operating Monday through Friday 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m.-noon.
By Andrea Nissel