COVID-19 surveillance testing: Valley districts tracking virus in schools through new testing practice

Shayla Girardin Image
Friday, January 22, 2021
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We look at how school districts are handling COVID testing and the early results of these new practices.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Several Valley school districts are using COVID-19 surveillance testing to help keep students and staff safe in the classroom.

Kids aren't the only ones taking tests these days in local schools. Staff members are now regularly checked for COVID-19.

"What they required is once we were open, we had to determine and test 10% of our employees that are face to face with students," said Clovis Unified Associate Superintendent of Human Resources, Barry Jagger.

This practice, known as surveillance testing, is a requirement for schools to hold in-person classes. Each district does it a bit differently.

"We select a date, I send out an email informing our staff that it's a great time to volunteer to take a test, the date, the time, and then we get sign-ups," said Roberto Gutierrez, the Deputy Superintendent of Kings Canyon Unified. "Usually, we have quite a bit of staff wanting to volunteer."

Kings Canyon Unified holds its testing at Reedley High School.

"It's a drive-thru event which takes about five minutes," added Gutierrez. "It's a mid-nasal swab."

The key elements of all districts' testing are the same, including which types of staff members are asked to participate.

"Bus drivers, clerical, child development, teaching staff, clerical staff, etc. would be working directly with students, and from that query. We did a random selection of 10%," said Jagger.

The practice keeps districts informed and helps prevent asymptomatic carriers from unknowingly spreading the disease. Fresno County health officials highlighted the results they calculated last month.

"We tested over 623 individuals and found 13 positive through school surveillance, so that's about a two percent positivity rate," said Joe Prado with the Fresno County Health Department. "That's less than the community positivity rate overall, so I think it reinforces that the school protocols that they're following are really helping to keep the schools safe."

Administrators we spoke with say there's no shortage of volunteers.

"It's not mandatory," said Gutierrez. "Our staff embraces it. They know the reason we have surveillance testing."

Districts have already met their requirements for the fall semester but say it's something they'll continue to do in the months to come.

"It really has reassured our families that the district is leaving no stone unturned," said Jagger.

Surveillance testing will be required monthly in schools on-campus instruction in 2021.

The Fresno County health department says 28 schools and districts participated in surveillance testing last semester. They include:

  • Alvina Elementary Charter
  • Big Picture Educational Academy
  • Burrel Union Elementary
  • Caruthers Unified
  • Clay Joint Elementary
  • Clovis Global Academy
  • Edison-Bethune Charter Academy
  • Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified
  • Fowler Unified
  • Fresno Christian Schools
  • Golden Plains Unified
  • Hume Lake Charter
  • Kepler Neighborhood
  • Kerman Unified
  • Kingsburg Elementary Charter
  • Kingsburg Joint Union High
  • Kings Canyon Joint Unified
  • Laton Joint Unified
  • Morris E. Dailey Charter Elementary
  • Orange Center
  • Pine Ridge Elementary
  • Riverdale Joint Unified
  • Sanger Unified
  • School of Unlimited Learning
  • Sierra Unified
  • Washington Colony Elementary
  • Washington Unified
  • Westside Elementary