The Webster Board of Education will offer Covid-19 testing for students and families, as they moved to give the clinic system a try until at least January, when they will reconsider and evaluate the program.
The board debated at length whether to offer up the program that would allow for families, students and children to be tested at two locations, both at the elementary school and high school/middle school.
District nurse Julie Steiner outlined the program, which would not cost the district any money or staff, but would require some coordination and space to implement, using county health department workers.
“We’ll need three weeks or so to get it going,” Steiner said, noting that she had visited other districts that run a testing clinic, that she was confident they could also do it at Webster for students, staff and families, alleviating difficulties getting testing.
“I had a family say it could be several weeks before they could (get a test),” stated district administrator Jeff Fimreite.
The major issue is that a positive result can also affect the entire family, and with quarantine protocols, it may be weeks before a student is allowed to return to learning, which leads to downstream educational effects that the district is also trying to mitigate.
Fimreite also stressed the need to keep student and staff populations separated from the testing areas, and also to make sure the effort does not affect the staff responsibilities, while helping to get accurate results.
“We want our kids back in school,” Steiner stressed.
Initially, the proposal was met with a lukewarm board response, and a motion to delay the testing program for a month was discussed at length.
“I really don’t think we should table it for a month,” stated board member Terry Larsen. “We’re dragging our feet here.”
After a bit of debate, the testing issue gained support, albeit on a temporary basis, for now.
The program will still require a bit of research and preparation before implementation, but Steiner and Fimreite were confident they could have it in place by December, to run at least through the end of 2021, on a trial basis.
“This is a voluntary program,” Fimreite stressed, noting that it was meant to help get kids and families tested in a more timely fashion, so they can get answers on possible infections quicker and with less travel or cost.
Steiner will look into testing capacity, machinery used, details on testing timelines and other issues before they implement the program, which will use office space at the two locations, before and after school, likely for five days a week. She said they will also continue to do contact tracing within the classrooms and district on students and staff who test positive.
After the school board approved the testing program, it was decided that they would reconsider or evaluate the service at their January meeting, to decide if they should continue to offer it at the school(s).