COVID-19 testing program expanding into area schools

Rapid antigen testing offers a quick response to reduce spread of infection
Rapid antigen testing offers a quick response to reduce spread of infection
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 2:50 PM EDT
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SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. (WECT) - Two school districts have implemented COVID-19 testing programs for students to help keep students in the classroom in the 2021-22 school year; other districts are in the planning stages.

Currently, all Columbus County Schools and Whiteville City Schools have agreed to participate in the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) StrongSchoolsNC diagnostic testing program.

“We believe that testing can reduce the opportunity for additional exposures especially as it relates to asymptomatic students and staff,” said Superintendent of Columbus County Schools Deanne Meadows, Ed.D in an email.

According to the NC DHHS, testing combined with other prevention strategies helps prevent outbreaks and reduce further transmission in schools.

Columbus County Schools has opted to use the state vendor, MAKO Medical, for end-to-end, on-site testing. The school district will begin diagnostic testing once materials arrive and staffing is in place.

Diagnostic testing is conducted on symptomatic individuals or by request from someone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case. A quick result provides information for contact tracing and quarantine.

“We will continue to review the process and number of cases to determine if we need to do additional methods of testing,” said Meadows.

According to federal and state legal requirements, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parental consent is required for minor students.

Officials at Brunswick County Schools said in an email that all schools will be taking part in an on-site COVID-19 testing program but did not have a start date. The public information officer noted the following:

We are still working with the state contracted vendor on set up so there is no further information available at this time.

Bladen County Schools is also in the planning stages and needs to answer several questions before proceeding with the initiative.

Testing for Pender County Schools currently takes place offsite; however, the Pender Board of Education authorized the administration to look into the process of offering school-site testing at a special meeting Tuesday.

New Hanover County Schools public information officer responded with the following message:

Julie Varnam, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services, is working on plans with the health department to determine feasibility.

During the first six months of 2021, the NC Department of Health and Human Services conducted a COVID-19 testing program across 58 public school districts, charter schools and private schools and found that schools were able to identify and isolate cases quickly to reduce the spread.

All North Carolina school districts that opt-in and meet the requirements will receive federal funds to hire a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, and/or unlicensed assisted personnel.

Those interested in receiving funding for testing programs are required to opt in by September 13, 2021, to receive preferred assistance from NC DHHS. Individual schools within a district may opt out at the discretion of leadership.

Click here for further information about the NC DHHS COVID-19 testing program for K-12 schools

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