CCSD expands COVID-19 testing options

Clarke County School District began administering on-site rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to staff the week of Jan. 17-23. This new resource aims to combat COVID-19 outbreaks in schools by offering test results to symptomatic staff in just 10 to 15 minutes. 

Amy Roark, Director of Nursing Services, says this new program has been in the works for months. At the beginning of the school year, the Department of Public Health (DPH) was offering surveillance testing for school districts. CCSD was more interested in on-site testing for symptomatic students and staff, so when DPH expanded the program to include test kits in December, Roark jumped at the opportunity to make it available in CCSD. 

“We were interested in symptomatic testing — being able to provide tests to individuals who felt ill,” Roark said.    

While school-based testing is currently only available for symptomatic staff at each school, this service will soon be accessible for students. 

“We’re going to see what the uptake is, how well received it is and how smooth the process is before we roll it out to students. Hopefully, next week or the week after, I imagine that we will have a district message to families sent out but also messages from principals and school nurses going out directly to their specific school communities,” Roark said. 

Today Friday, Feb. 4, the district will be offering PCR testing clinics, one of which will be operated out of Cedar Shoals’ fine arts building between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Testing will be optional and free for all students and their families as well as staff.   

“PCR testing is the (test) that has to be sent off to the lab to get results in 24 to 48 hours. We have reached out to the company to go ahead and get those dates scheduled. We’re going to offer a couple of different district-wide centralized locations that students and staff can drive through to be PCR tested,” Roark said.  

Staff and parents who want to pre-register their children must complete an enrollment form located on CCSD’s website. It serves as a blanket consent form, giving permission to the school’s respective nurse to administer a COVID-19 test in the event that the student has symptoms of the virus. Currently, this service is only offering rapid-antigen tests. 

“The rapid test is the most helpful right now based on our needs. We have a lot of individuals who may have a sore throat or runny nose, and they’re just not sure if they have COVID or not. Being able to quickly determine that in the school clinic would be very helpful for students and staff in trying to figure out if they need to go home or stay in school,” Roark said.   

School-based testing is a valuable resource amid the national COVID-19 test shortage. With a direct distributor, Roark says that keeping tests in stock is not an anticipated issue. 

“The lab has assured us that they have plenty and that if we need more, we just let them know,” Roark said. “I think that most schools received 100 to 200 test kits today (Jan. 19) that are just intended for staff, and we’ll be placing another order for student kits after that.”

In addition to implementing school-based testing, the Hilsman Health Center is offering a $100 gift card to anyone receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccine clinics will be returning to CCSD middle and high schools later this month.    

“If a family who is not vaccinated decides that they want to vaccinate everybody and there are four people in the family, they could potentially get $400,” Roark said. 

Anna Schmidt

Senior Anna Schmidt is the News Editor for BluePrints Magazine. Schmidt won third place in the 2021 GSPA First Amendment Essay Contest. She hopes to major in business with an emphasis in sustainability. Her hobbies include being outside, traveling and discovering new coffee shops. Schmidt’s goals for this year include writing meaningful stories that share different perspectives from the community. She enjoys the curious, creative and supportive nature that journalism has established among the staff.

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