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South Coast Schools Start COVID-19 Testing Pilot

PHI’s Safely Opening Schools pilot offers rapid, on-site COVID-19 testing to all teachers, staff and students in California schools, to help school districts most affected by the pandemic to safely reopen. In San Mateo County, La Honda-Pescadero Unified, Ravenswood and Redwood City school districts are participating.

  • Half Moon Bay Review
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Last month, students from Pescadero Elementary School were sent home with permission slips regarding a COVID-19 testing program called Safely Opening Schools. The question was would parents give permission for their child to participate?

The eight-week pilot, a program of the Public Health Institute with support from The California Endowment and the Ballmer Group, tests all teachers, staff and students with permission twice a week for the virus using a rapid antigen test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The goal of the program is to help school districts most affected by the pandemic to safely reopen by providing regular, effective and affordable testing. In San Mateo County, La Honda-Pescadero Unified, Ravenswood and Redwood City school districts are participating.

In the first week of the pilot at Pescadero Elementary, which officially began on Feb. 25, 16 staff and 33 students were tested. Ten to 11 students did not test because their parents opted out, and 12 to 14 students had yet to return for in-person learning, which became an option in November when the elementary school reopened with a half-day schedule.

Bringing back students into the classroom for in-person learning has been a top priority for LHPUSD since schools went remote last March. Many students do not have internet access at home, making distance learning virtually impossible. In response, the district set up learning centers with internet capable desks, shade and water at several ranches in the area.

However, many families were still struggling.

“We have a lot of working parents,” LHPUSD Superintendent Amy Wooliever said. “We knew that it was causing a lot of chaos in the home.”

As a result, LHPUSD staff was eager to participate in the pilot for the Safely Opening Schools program as it adds an extra layer of safety to in-person learning.

Pescadero Elementary Principal Kristen Lindstrom is excited about how rapid testing can help the community as a whole. On the South Coast, where there is a lot of shared housing, consistent COVID-19 testing is essential to curbing the spread.

“We have incredible data at our fingertips,” Lindstrom said. “We can help limit this spread much, much quicker, because we know right away, versus having to wait two days (for other kinds of tests). And within those two days, how many more people have also been infected?”

Now, as San Mateo County moves to less restrictive tiers in the statewide reopening plan, LHPUSD is working to reopen the middle and high school, and Wooliever hopes both schools will also have the opportunity to participate in the Safely Opening Schools program.

Click below to read the full story in the Half Moon Bay Review.

Originally published by Half Moon Bay Review

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