Teachers, Staff Get Tested

Vanessa Jimenez, a medical assistant with National Labs, administers a COVID-19 test to Drew Sarratore, principal of Paden Elementary School. The Alameda Unified School District is launching a comprehensive COVID- 19 testing program for employees and teachers this month.
Susan Davis

Teachers, Staff Get Tested

Sun Staff Reports

The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) initiated the first phases of a comprehensive COVID19 testing program of staff on Feb. 3. The testing is a key component of the district’s plan to reopen elementary schools for hybrid instruction on Monday, March 8.

Under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed “Safe Schools for All” plan, districts need to submit a plan to test all students and staff before reopening their campuses to students once the county case rate falls to 25 cases per 100,000 residents. The frequency of testing depends on regional case rates for COVID19: weekly testing for all staff and students if the case rate is greater than 14 cases per 100,000 residents and biweekly testing for all staff and students if the case rate is less than 14 cases per 100,000 residents.

As of Feb. 1, the case rate for Alameda County was 28.9 cases per 100,000 residents.

AUSD staff researched several testing companies since learning of this requirement Jan. 14. At its Jan. 26 public meeting, the Board of Education approved a contract with National Labs, Inc. to provide PCR testing, via nasal swabs, for all employees and all students — a total of about 10,700 people — once schools reopen. Testing will begin with employees who are regularly on campus. Plans are underway for testing students coming to campus for learning hubs and small group instruction.

“Initiating a large-scale public health testing program is clearly a massive undertaking for a public school district,” said AUSD Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi, “one that requires considerable staff time and focus. We are determined to meet this new state mandate, however, because we are committed to safely bringing students and staff back on campus as soon as possible.”

AUSD has also signed a contract with Curative Labs for testing services and may develop agreements with other testing companies if that is necessary to complete the mandate for testing.

“We are starting on a relatively small scale in order to pilot the program,” Scuderi added. “This progressive build toward testing thousands of students and staff each week will require constant monitoring and adjustments. We are moving into a large-scale operation that is uncharted territory for our district and districts across the state.”

In order to be cleared to open schools this spring, the “Safe Schools for All” plan also requires the submission of a CalOSHA plan and a completed checklist about elements included in the district’s Reopening Plan — such as protocols for masking, social distancing, hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting, daily health screenings, and tracking and managing COVID-19 cases among students and employees.