State COVID-19 testing program coming to Summit School District |

State COVID-19 testing program coming to Summit School District

Case numbers remain low in the district

Children wait in line to begin their first day of kindergarten at the Dillon Valley Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. The school district plans to utilize a state-run COVID-19 testing program.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News archive

The Summit School District will take part in a free, state-run COVID-19 testing program that incentivizes students to participate. The district has continued to have low case numbers since the start of the school year and hopes this program will further prevent the virus’s spread by catching asymptomatic cases.

Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford said the school continues to send out weekly COVID-19 case reports on Fridays, noting that the district has consistently had between 10 and 12 new cases a week — about 0.3% of the district’s student and employee populations.

“When I gave those numbers to the principals yesterday, I really commended them because they’re the people on the homefront who are reminding (kids) to take their masks up (and) cover their nose,“ Crawford said in the board meeting. “… For a lot of our teachers and our principals, that is exhausting work day after day.“

Crawford presented the board with a graph from the Colorado Department of Education showing the drastic differences in case numbers between schools in the state with and without masking mandates. He said this reinforces that he made the right decision in August by implementing masking and other mitigation strategies in the district.

Summit School District/Courtesy graph

Crawford also said Summit County has one of the lowest number of cases among kids ages 6-17 in the state, which he said is a testament to the students following mitigation procedures and the county’s vaccination rates.

The state testing program is entirely free of charge to the district. The state provides the tests and health care professionals to administer them, which Crawford said the state is able to do thanks to extra funding it received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Crawford said he expects it to take three to four weeks to get the program up and running in Summit now that the district has officially expressed interest.

The state would send medical professionals with all the necessary testing equipment to the schools once a week, with personalized schedules to accommodate each of the schools in the district.

“They’re providing everything,” Crawford said. “They provide the portal, they provide the staffing (and) they say they will come when it’s most convenient for schools. So if we have nine sites, they’ll set up nine schedules. … All we have to do is get the kids from the classroom to them and back, but that’s not as simple as it might appear on the surface.”

Crawford said all of the district’s principals are on board and understand the need, but they’re worried families won’t take advantage of the opportunity. He said in the state’s experience so far, only about 50% of families have opted in to the program, but Crawford is optimistic Summit will see a higher turnout. The number of students participating will also impact logistics of the testing operations, but Crawford said the state estimated it would take two to three minutes per student.

Families can opt into or out of the program at any time, but the weekly testing will be made available to all. There will be incentives, too: The first time a student gets tested they’ll be awarded a $25 gift card, and they’ll be given a $10 gift card for every subsequent test

“If you’ve got three kids, over a month it starts to add up,” Crawford said.

Crawford said the district isn’t playing any role in the incentive program, which is entirely run through the state program funded by the CDC. The incentive program will continue until funding runs out.

Crawford said it’s essential that families provide the most clean, accurate data they can when signing up for the program to ensure it runs smoothly. He said district leadership is working through how to best support families in signing up through the testing portal.

“We’re working through all of that,” Crawford said about testing logistics. “It’s kind of overwhelming when you get into the details, but by the same token it’s something we just feel we need to do for our parents in the community.”

After the last board meeting, when the district expressed it was looking into the state’s testing program, it sent out a survey to families asking if they would be interested in using the program. Crawford said the survey received fewer than 200 responses, of which about 70% were in favor of bringing testing into the district.

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