CCS to phase in free COVID-19 testing to students and staff starting Oct. 25

Posted 10/13/21

Chatham County Schools will begin offering free weekly COVID-19 tests to students and staff this fall, beginning with K-5 students the week of Oct. 25.

The rapid results tests, administered by …

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CCS to phase in free COVID-19 testing to students and staff starting Oct. 25

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Posted

Chatham County Schools will begin offering free weekly COVID-19 tests to students and staff this fall, beginning with K-5 students the week of Oct. 25.

The rapid results tests, administered by Raleigh-based Mako Medical, are set to expand to middle schoolers the week of Nov. 1 and to high schoolers the week of Nov. 8. In order to be tested, a parent or guardian must provide a one-time consent for any student under 18, available through the links on the district’s website.

“We want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect our students,” Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson said in a district statement last Friday. “We want to keep our students in school. Testing is another tool at our disposal to help us mitigate the spread of the virus, which will allow us to continue to work toward our goal of an uninterrupted school year.”

The cost of the testing program is completely covered by a grant.

There have been 228 cumulative cases of COVID-19 reported to Chatham County Schools since Aug. 23, according to the district’s case dashboard, making up just over 2% of the district’s total population. There were 12 active cases as of Wednesday afternoon.

CCS has only had one cluster — defined as five or more cases that are epidemiologically related within a 14-day window — at Chatham Central High School, reported during the second week of classes. A second cluster at Northwood was included in the state health department’s child care and school settings report three weeks ago, but it was later deemed to be erroneous and removed from the list.

After a few months of rising cases of COVID-19 among young people in the state and county, the low number of clusters and associated cases at CCS during that time suggests the safety mitigation strategies in place at the district are preventing community spread. The CCS Board of Education again voted to require universal masking on all its campuses at its meeting on Monday, in accordance with state legislation requiring school boards to vote monthly on face mask requirements.

“I would at this time, ask the board to once again affirm that decision for universal masking that they previously made until the next discussion on this matter,” Jackson said on Monday, “as we continue to work with our local health officials, and state DHHS, to ensure that all of the mitigating factors recommended are in place to keep kids in school.”

Board member David Hamm acknowledged the questions and concerns several parents raised about mask-wearing during the public comments portion of the meeting, but ultimately still voted to reapprove the mandate.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “I would hate to set Chatham County back because of a decision made a month early, or two months early — I’m not putting the timeline on that, we don’t know.”

There haven’t been any clusters reported among the county’s public charter schools — Willow Oak Montessori, Woods Charter School and Chatham Charter School — in the state report. Each school also has an indoor mask mandate, and Woods and Chatham Charter have COVID-19 trackers on their websites.

Health experts have long encouraged consistent testing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, in addition to universal mask wearing. The district said it hopes providing weekly testing will help keep students in school, athletics and after-school activities.

Students will be tested as they enter their school building in the morning and all testing information will remain confidential. The notification process for students and parents will be figured out once CCS completes its onboarding, the district said, but results will be available within 48 hours.

CCS Public Information Officer Nancy Wykle told the News + Record the district was waiting to see how many people sign up for the program before implementing a time structure for how and when students will get tested each week.

Mako will onboard students for testing as they sign up, she said.

“We encourage our families to take advantage of this free service to help keep our students and staff safe and healthy,” Superintendent Jackson said Friday.

You can learn more about the Mako school testing program on their website.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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