New COVID-19 testing systems alert school districts of positive cases

Back To School

DENVER (KDVR) — As schools prepare for the start of in-person learning this semester, many districts are rolling out new COVID-19 testing methods for its students and staff that alerts school officials immediately of a positive case.

In Cherry Creek School District (CCSD), all elementary school families were notified this week of a random and optional new school-based testing system that goes into effect on Monday.

School nurses at every elementary school have been trained by COVIDCheck Colorado, to collect PCR saliva tests every morning. The tests are not mandatory but students who opt-in could be chosen at random and notified the night before the test. 

“It’s not a surprise, it’s not a gotcha, it’s to help people,” Michelle Weinraub said, Director of Health Services with CCSD. “Nurses hand over a test tube to a staff member or student and they just need to produce a very small amount of saliva, equal to a one-tenth of a teaspoon.”

Results are expected within 24 hours. “The idea is if we get them tested in the morning, tests are processed here in Colorado, then families and staff who test positive will know before they go to bed if they are positive and then don’t go to school the next day,” Weinraub said.

Families will receive a text/email notification of a negative result and will receive a text/email and a phone call from a National Jewish Health provider if their student tests positive. The district would be immediately notified, begin contact tracing and send out notifications to students who need to quarantine.

In Denver Public Schools (DPS), the district is also offering free COVID-19 testing. This week, students were emailed a link to sign up for testing at one of the many COVIDCheck Colorado drive-thru locations. COVIDCheck has several locations on DPS campuses where students can simply walk through the site to be tested by a nurse.

If a student tests positive, the district is immediately notified and contact tracing begins. 

“This will help us track cases, issue quarantines if necessary and notify those contacts when the cases are identified,” Winna MacLaren with DPS said. “We are asking students to schedule that initial test before returning to school, and then following up every other week.”

DPS will welcome grades ECE-5 and secondary students in Special Education and Newcomer Centers back for in-person learning starting Monday. In-person learning for all other secondary students will begin Jan. 19-29, depending on the student’s school.

Some schools may return to in-person learning on a hybrid schedule, based on the current health guidelines to limit class sizes. Families who selected the 100% online option will continue to attend classes virtually.

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