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Pender County school board votes to move forward with in-school COVID testing program

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 11:56 AM EDT
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BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - The Pender County Board of Education unanimously approved a motion Thursday morning to initiate the process of setting up diagnostic COVID-19 testing in schools with MAKO Labs.

The testing would be strictly voluntary and children would not be able to be tested without parental consent. The board hoped to utilize the program for both symptomatic individuals, and people exposed to a case of COVID-19 so students could make the return to the classroom after five days isolation at home.

Tests would be free to families and results are expected to be returned within 24 hours.

“Right now our parents are having a really difficult time trying to find testing sites and it’s costing their students days away from school, sometimes unnecessarily, so we are going to provide that access for them, and get them back into school quicker,” said Pender County Schools lead nurse Kim Collins. “We have heard from parents that they have to make an appointment; sometimes it’s limited; some doctors offices are doing testing. Sometimes it’s costly; we’ve heard up to $150 per test.”

The state program also comes with added resources for staffing.

Now that the motion was approved, the company can begin laying the groundwork, doing things like creating accounts for each school in the district, developing a detailed plan for each testing site, lining up registration paperwork, and organizing testing schedules.

Other schools using the company took months to navigate the process, however, leaders discussed Thursday morning that the lag time was likely related to delays in state funding that would support the program.

Similar programs are already underway in other areas of southeastern North Carolina.

Columbus County Schools kicked off their in-school testing September 27. They’ve also secured CNAs to cover each school to help carry out the PCR testing. Since the program began last month they’ve carried out just one test so far.

Brunswick County Schools began testing students this week but have already had several families use the service.

“Almost all of our schools we’ve had a handful of people come through and get tested, so we know that the process is working and we hope that we’re going to continue to let everybody know via our communication platform and calls to remind them that the optional service is available,” said Brunswick County Schools Chief Communications Officer Daniel Seamens.

New Hanover County has also acknowledged that they’re looking into the feasibility of adding school testing sites, and Bladen County announced plans before school started to implement a student testing program as well.

According to the assistant superintendent of Bladen County Schools, the district will be providing weekly testing on-site, with registration beginning next week.

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