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Peninsula School District launches school-based COVID testing program

A child walks through the halls between classes at Stark Elementary School on Sept. 16, 2020, in Stamford, Connecticut.(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The Peninsula School District is teaming up with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TCPHD) to provide COVID-19 tests to staff and students.

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The district began its school-based COVID-19 testing program on Sunday, Nov. 29. Students, staff, and families, as well as members of the general community, were able to visit mobile testing units at Key Peninsula Middle School and Gig Harbor High School for a PCR test.

Starting Monday, voluntary rapid antigen testing for students and staff only will take place once a week until winter break at each elementary school, at Key Peninsula Middle School, Peninsula High School, and Gig Harbor High School. Any positive rapid test would require a second test to confirm, which will also occur free of charge at the school location.

A consent form is required for each student and staff member being tested. Additionally, any students or staff member who attends or works at a location that is not a testing site, or is attending school or working remotely, can be tested at the middle school or high schools on Fridays.

Most students in the district are learning remotely at this time, though the youngest grades and students who receive special education have been invited back for in-person learning in stage four of the “PSD Dial of Stages.” Families can also elect to remain at home for remote learning.

The White River School District is also partnering with the TPCHD in the school-based test pilot, starting last week.

Pierce County was able to use CARES funding to purchase tests and PPE, and are providing “logistical support and manpower,” according to the PSD website. No money is coming through the district.

According to the Institute of Disease Modeling, if community transmission remains low and school districts continue counter-measures, such as wearing masks and social distancing, a routine testing program like this could help reduce transmission.

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Seattle Public Schools is also considering a return to in-person learning, with the district holding a virtual meeting Monday to discuss future plans. Right now, SPS is on a remote learning plan through at least Jan. 28, 2021. The only exception to that date is for students who receive special education services that require in-person instruction.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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