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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

Spokane Public Schools begins rapid testing of students for COVID-19

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 11, 2021

Rapid testing for COVID-19 started Monday at Spokane Public Schools.

On a chilly Monday morning, three cars rolled into the parking lot at Chase Middle School for the test, which is a key part of the district’s strategy for mitigating the virus and speeding the reopening of schools.

“Since we’re bringing kids back, the importance of this is making that as safe an experience as possible for our staff and our students,” said the nurse who administered the tests, said Health Services Director Becky Doughty.

“We also have students who have issues with access to care, and this is our way to provide that service to them,” she said.

Participation was low, partly because last week’s district email mentioning the tests was limited to staff as the district gets the program up and running.

More information will be shared this week in a letter to both families and staff, said Sandra Jarrard, director of communications for the district.

The tests are easy. Open to students and staff, the oral swab is administered while the subject is still in their vehicle. Results come back in 36 to 48 hours.

Doughty and another nurse will be at Chase all week from 9 a.m. to noon. The program will be expanded next week to Shadle Park High School and other sites to be determined.

The tests will be administered only after parental consent.

The district is one of 10 in the state chosen for the state-funded program in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Health.

When the news was announced on Dec. 9, Superintendent Adam Swinyard said the tests “will represent an additional strategy for enhancing safety and limiting the spread of the virus.”

The district currently offers in-person instruction for kindergarten through second grade.

Last week, the district laid out its plans to begin the return of third-graders on Jan. 20, fourth-graders on Feb. 3, fifth- and sixth-graders on Feb. 17 and all secondary students by March 1.

However, those dates are contingent on other factors. During a school board meeting last week, Swinyard and his staff included “school-based” testing programs as a key component in the timetable.

Doughty said the district hopes to eventually have testing available in the health rooms at each school, so students who are feeling sick can be tested before they go home.

In order to sign up for testing, a student must complete a health care check. If they are symptomatic they may register for the test and be provided an appointment time.

“Our goal is to make this part of the educational experience – with the consent of parents, of course – to be able to randomly test students as our case counts go down, and identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus,” Doughty said.

More information will be shared this week in a letter to both families and staff, Jarrard said.

Jim Allen can be reached at (509) 459-5437 or jima@spokesman.com

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