Asymptomatic testing is set to begin in local schools in early March.
The Directors of Education at the local public and Catholic school boards said the testing is voluntary, and where it will take place is still being determined.
Following consultation with the Public Health Units in Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton, Education Director of the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, Deb Crawford, said GVT Lab and Imaging Services would be doing the testing. While Chatham and Sarnia’s sites are yet to be determined, March 5, 2021, will be the first day of testing.
Crawford said the private company has dedicated two teams to test students and staff for seven weeks from March 5, 2021, to April 16, 2021, including conducting targeted testing on Friday evenings and Saturdays.
According to the Education Director of the Lambton Kent District School Board, John Howitt, school communities will get all of the information about where the testing sites are and how to register for appointments once the asymptomatic testing plan is complete.
“We’re facilitating the testing within our facilities, but we are at an arm’s length from it,” said Howitt. “There will be communication as well to public health on the results so that public health can follow up on any confirmed cases that do come out of the testing.”
Public School Board Director John Howitt previously said the plan is to have tests complete on staff and students at three public schools each week. This could include testing on weekends and evenings, but Howitt stressed the testing is not mandatory.
“The weekly target is for approximately two percent of the population who are attending face-to-face learning,” said Howitt.
Parental consent forms must be signed before the student testing is done.
“This is not a School Board initiative, although it’s happening with our students,” said Howitt. “It might happen outside of the school day, including on weekends or in the evening.”
According to Dr. David Colby, the local schools have done a great job keeping students and staff safe.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, everybody thought the driver for community infection would be school children, and that has turned out absolutely not to be the case,” said Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health. “That’s not been the experience anywhere.
Colby said there has been great success with the planning that has been done with School Boards to avoid transmission within schools. He added the schools are very organized to isolate cohorts if there are any school environment cases.
“In almost all cases that have been positive in schools, it has been family contacts that have resulted in students being positive, not transmission in the school environment,” said Colby.
The Province of Ontario announced expanded asymptomatic testing in early February to keep schools and child care settings safe. According to the Provincial Government, the tests will offer an additional layer of protection and help keep schools and child care centres safe by identifying cases that might otherwise have gone undetected; reducing transmission of COVID-19 from the community into schools and within schools, and reducing barriers and making it easier to get a test in your community.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News