RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County Schools leaders have unveiled the start of a new plan to get a handle on COVID cases in classrooms.
Officials have filed papers to participate in the state-funded testing program for schools.
Now, they have a lot of tough decisions to make.
District leaders have to decide if they are going to “pool” sample school populations, just students involved in extracurriculars, voluntarily, or if a student is showing symptoms.
Once they do decide on an option, it could take at least four to six weeks for them to implement the program.
Board members are trying to work quickly.
“We should have done testing, like yesterday,” said Keith Sutton, chair of the Wake County Board of Education.
One month into the new school year, board members are concerned with the rate of COVID spreading in the community right now.
“I did check for today, September 21, there are 251 cases per 100,000 people in the most recent seven-day average,” said Paul Koh, the assistant superintendent for Wake County Public Schools.
Those cases are hitting their classrooms.
District leaders are trying to figure out, how they can get ahead of these problems, through the state-funded testing program, and working with a vendor, Mako Medical, to get the tests into schools.
“It’s at no cost to students or families,” added Karen Wallace with Wake County Schools. “And a parent or guardian must sign a consent form ahead of time.”
But there are a lot of logistics to consider, like who will be tested.
“If we did pool testing it would be more of a random sampling of a school population, vaccinated or not, or diagnostic, so if someone was showing symptoms,” explained Koh.
“If we do this, with vaccinated teachers, we could have a bigger teacher shortage,” added another board member.
There were also discussions on who would be the ones to administer the tests.
“Our schools are taxed enough as it is already, with everything they’re having to deal with the current levels of contact tracing that are happening…it could be a limiting factor in the option tht we choose,” said Superintendent Cathy Moore.
Board members also expressed concerns with the types of tests that would be used.
“[Rapid tests] aren’t exactly, very reliable,” said one board member.
“I would suggest we’re looking at doing the cheek swab, it’s simpler and much easier,” said Sutton.
As for staff, board members agreed they should start preparing staff for the possible federal vaccine mandate, that would require employees to get tested weekly