It's no news that school districts are experiencing a significant shortage of test kits. This is due to distribution issues at the state level. Here is how we are responding and how we are moving forward to prioritize school safety.
Pooled Screen Testing
In screen testing, samples from a group of people are pooled. If the batch tests positive, individual rapid testing is conducted to identify the positive case.
Highline will not move forward with screen testing while there is a test shortage. State and local health departments have advised that pool testing is ineffective and not recommended now due to high rates of community spread. Pool testing has been temporarily halted at community test sites for this reason.
Highline will prioritize as a strategy to minimize spread and maximize students' time in school, per Washington State Department of Health (DOH) guidance. We hope to begin Test-to-Stay in February if we have adequate test supplies.
In Test-to-Stay, close contacts who are not up-to-date on their COVID vaccines may go on a modified five-day quarantine if they agree to be tested when they are notified of exposure and again after five days. In modified quarantine, students continue to attend class but stay home from other activities. If they test negative on Day 5, they can return to all activities as long as they wear a well-fitting mask and do not have symptoms.
DOH has designated most classrooms as a low priority for contact tracing when safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing, are in place. Highline will follow DOH guidance for contact tracing, prioritizing spaces where safety measures are not consistent, such as classrooms serving students with special needs that make masking and distancing difficult.
When staff conduct contact tracing, they will ask individuals who test positive to identify close contacts. If a student is unable to provide this information due to age or other limitations, an adult staff member will be asked to provide information.
Rapid Test Distribution
Highline is not able to distribute rapid tests to staff, families, or students. The rapid testing supplies the district receives are in bulk and cannot be broken up into individual kits. The federal government tracks school districts' test usage, and each test result must be documented in a federal database. Rapid test distribution programs available to the larger community can be accessed through a state website.
Testing for Athletics
DOH has updated its guidance for testing staff and students involved in athletics. Testing of asymptomatic athletes three times a week is no longer required. We are now required to test athletes in high-contact sports on the day of competition only. Anyone who tests positive will not compete or practice until their isolation period is completed. A student-athlete does not need to test if they have tested positive and recovered from COVID in the last 90 days.