DC public school students will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test every week starting next week, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said Thursday.
DC public school students in pre-K will be required to a rapid COVID-19 test every week starting next week, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said Thursday, pointing out that the school system is prioritizing students who do not qualify for the coronavirus vaccine.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the tests would be made available to students earlier this year week, but didn’t say they would be needed.
Now tests are handed out every Friday and families with young children are required to upload the results. For next week, test results must be submitted on Monday at 4 p.m. before students are released on Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr.’s vacation. return to school.
The rapid tests will also be available to preschoolers, but they will not be required to submit results. All students will have to take tests after the breaks in February and April.
The changes come as the students are almost done with the first week of classes after the winter break. Parents, teachers and lawmakers remain concerned about the increased levels of coronavirus transmission in the community.
DC Council President Phil Mendelson wrote a letter to Ferebee this week looking for information about the notification process when students and staff test positive and seeking updates on when each school will have a COVID coordinator, plans Bowser announced in October.
“The focus here is on the 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds with our resources, because they’re not eligible for the vaccine,” Ferebee said. “We know that our older students and our staff are eligible for the vaccine.”
In a letter to the school community Thursday, Ferebee also detailed plans for a new program that will allow students identified as close contacts to request test kits to be mailed to them starting next week.
The test kits will also be made available to teachers and staff on a weekly basis.
Ferebee said he doesn’t expect supply to be an issue as the new programs roll out.
The school system will also continue to use its saliva-based asymptomatic testing program, Ferebee said. Some younger children have struggled to produce adequate samples, prompting the city to use nasal swabs instead.
While some DC area school systems update their quarantine and isolation guidelines, Ferebee said DC Health is still reviewing new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is maintaining a 10-day isolation period for anyone who tests positive.
The CDC recently changed its guidelines, saying that someone who tests positive must isolate for five days, but can then end the isolation if symptoms improve and a mask is worn around other people.
Keeping schools open remains the city’s priority, Ferebee said, noting that two schools switched completely to virtual learning this week, “which is a different place than where we were before the holiday break.”
Steve Beam, a DC parent, said after Monday’s initial test announcement he was pleased with the additional mitigation strategies.
“I’m glad the administration has finally got around to testing,” said Beam. “If I want to [the city was] get there faster. It feels like we’re constantly a little behind. The number of cases is exploding, it would have been great to test earlier.”
Parent Dana Grosser-Clarkson said Monday the changes are “a step in the right direction.”