BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As school districts work on their reopening plans in the midst a rise in COVID cases, Saratoga County is set to launch an initiative to test students and staff throughout the school year.

“I think it’s going to be a critical measure in helping schools remain open,” said Dr. Daniel Kuhles, the Saratoga County Commissioner of Health.

The county is set to approve a more than $3 million contract to provide saliva-based testing throughout the school year.

“I think this will be well received by the schools. It’ll help us in our efforts to see where we have positives and where we don’t,” said Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kunsnierz.

County health officials call it a vital step in keeping students safe, especially as those younger than 12-years-old still can’t get the vaccine.

“The goal here is for children to be in school in-person five days a week. This is one of the critical layers of prevention and mitigation,” Kuhles said.

Frequency of testing will depend on community transmission rates.

Right now, schools are creating their own reopening plans without guidance, after the Department of Health declined to put out statewide guidance.

In a statement, Shenendehowa Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson called the DOH’s decision disappointing, but said, “We will take a tiered mitigation approach to find and maintain a balance between prioritizing health and safety of students and staff, and supporting the social, emotional, mental health of students and staff.”

Other districts in the county, like Saratoga Springs, have released preliminary plans including following the CDC’s guidance on requiring masks indoors.

But, in the absence of of DOH guidelines, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Education sent a letter to districts saying NYSED is working on developing summary guidance to assist with reopening, calling it a necessary step in the absence of other state guidelines.

Saratoga County officials hope districts finalize their plans in the coming weeks.