Voluntary asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will be coming to local schools very soon.
Chatham-Kent Lambton Administrative School Services, “CLASS”, a shared services organization co-owned by the St. Clair Catholic and Lambton Kent District School Boards to manage their busing and child care services – will coordinate the testing.
The provincial government has told boards to test at five percent of their elementary and secondary schools each week, starting this week. The weekly target of five percent of schools works out to three schools in the Lambton Kent public board.
Public school board director John Howitt 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. He added a meeting has yet to take place with the private company doing the testing, and more information will be coming.
“The weekly target is for approximately two percent of the population who are attending face-to-face learning,” said John Howitt, director of education with the Lambton Kent District School Board.
Howitt said 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.”
Accordion 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.
He also said teachers are not a priority to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because they are not at an elevated risk compared to the general population, and they’re not at elevated risk of mortality.
“We would really place teachers in the same risk category as other people their age,” said Colby. “There are currently no people actively teaching who are over the age of 80.”
CK Public Health reports only three of the 40 total outbreaks in Chatham-Kent are school outbreaks, and they have all been resolved. Those three school outbreaks accounted for a total of seven cases.
According to a Ministry of Education news release, targeted asymptomatic testing will help identify cases that might otherwise go undetected, reduce transmission from the community into schools and within schools, and make it easier to be tested.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News