Rapid COVID-19 testing starts in 8 school districts

On Tuesday, inside the gym at Bowman Creek Elementary in Auburn, teachers and staff lined up to be tested for COVID-19.

The rapid tests give results in about 15 minutes. The tests are tracked with a QR code and an app.

The School-Based COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program is a partnership with Seattle Children’s. The tests will be given at random to help identify students and staff who are asymptomatic. It will also be used if a child develops symptoms during a school day.

“It gives a peace of mind that we’re able to operate school safely with the virus out,” said Dr. Alan Spicciati, superintendent of the Auburn School District.

After nearly a year of remote learning, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all districts to bring students back for in-person learning next month.

Primary students must return by April 5, and secondary students by April 19. Auburn students started returning this month.

“There are some people who have been really careful doing all the right things, distancing not gathering, not gathering indoors, wearing masks, and there are others who haven’t. And you’re bringing all of the kids from those families together, and I think that makes a lot of very careful parents very worried,” said Rep. Kim Schrier. The pediatrician secured more than 300,000 rapid tests from the Department of Health and Human Services. She said the results will reassure families and make schools safer. Schrier said it will likely be fall or next year before children can be vaccinated.

There are eight school districts involved in the testing program: Auburn, Mukilteo, Concrete, Federal Way, Ferndale, Northshore, Stanwood-Camano, and Sumner-Bonney Lake.

Seattle Children’s trained the school nurses and health techs at 160 different schools to administer the tests.

“It’s a really great tool for helping people feel safe and secure, knowing the people around them have been tested and having that peace of mind for families to send their students back as we’re all transitioning to in-person learning,” said Dr. Amanda Jones, Seattle Children’s.