Windsor schools to offer first asymptomatic tests this Saturday for students attending classes in-person

·4 min read
School boards in Windsor-Essex will offer asymptomatic testing for students and staff for the first time this weekend. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)
School boards in Windsor-Essex will offer asymptomatic testing for students and staff for the first time this weekend. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)

The four school boards in Windsor-Essex will offer voluntary, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students attending in-person classes for the first time this weekend.

Staff and students at 11 schools in and around the N9A postal code can get swabbed for the virus starting Saturday morning. Children who attend daycare at those schools are also eligible.

The testing will take place at Immaculate Conception Elementary School on Victoria Avenue.

The following schools are invited to take part:

  • F.W. Begley Public School.

  • Giles Campus French Immersion Public School.

  • Prince Edward Public School.

  • Dougall Ave. Public School.

  • Immaculate Conception Catholic Elementary School.

  • St. Angela Catholic Elementary School.

  • Centre de formation des adultes.

  • École élémentaire catholique Saint-Edmond.

  • École élémentaire catholique Monseigneur-Jean-Noël.

  • École Secondaire De Lamothe-Cadillac.

  • École élémentaire Louise-Charron.

The testing will start with school staff, then proceed by last name to avoid lineups, starting with "A" between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and continuing by letter each half hour until "W, X, Y or Z" at 2:30 - 3 p.m.

Parents or guardians will need to give consent for students under the age of 18, according to a media release issued by all four boards.

Parent advocate Kristen Siapas, whose children are virtually attending the Giles Campus, says this is a "step in the right direction."

"Asymptomatic testing is just going to add one more thing to help parents have that peace of mind and feel confident about the choices they've made with their kids," she told CBC News Thursday.

"I think it's something that parents have wanted for a long time and seeing that it's coming forward, it's going to make a lot of people really happy to see this happen."

Since her kids are learning online, they aren't eligible to receive testing this weekend, but she says if there is an opportunity to do so she will bring them to get tested.

Once future locations and dates have been determined, families will be notified by their boards, the release adds.

News of asymptomatic testing this weekend comes after a spokesperson for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board said late last week that it wasn't expected to start until at least March 19 — which was nearly a month after it was mandated by the province to begin.

Stephen Fields cited complications caused by coordinating the testing plans with the local health unit and the various boards.

Though he did note the date was tentative and could be different if circumstances changed.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued a memo to larger school boards across the province in mid-February, directing them to offer targeted testing in at least five per cent of their schools, reaching two per cent of their student populations weekly.

The memo called for a start date of Feb. 22.

Testing is too late: elementary teachers' union

Local president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario Mario Spagnuolo told CBC News Thursday that while teachers are "thankful" the testing is getting started, it's coming too late.

"Our members are very disappointed that the asymptomatic testing did not start immediately when the government said it was going to start," he said. "It's now past halfway through the school year."

President of the local Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Mario Spagnuolo says while they're grateful testing is on its way, it's also happening too late.
President of the local Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Mario Spagnuolo says while they're grateful testing is on its way, it's also happening too late. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Spagnuolo says the testing should have started in September when schools first reopened.

"It's too little too late," he said. "This asymptomatic testing was supposed to be preventative — we're beyond preventative ... we're now reacting and we're reacting in a crisis."

He said the government hasn't stepped up to deliver a lot of the safety protocols they've been asking for such as smaller class sizes, enhanced personal protective equipment and asymptomatic testing.

"You need multiple layers of protection so all of these things need to be put in place to try to reduce the risk of COVID and when one of these pieces is missing it doesn't lend to a safe environment," he said.