Learn to Return (L2R): School COVID-19 Testing

Kelso School District Mitigating Factors

mitigating factors

In collaboration with the Washington State Department of Health, we are pleased to announce Kelso School District is one of the additional 50 school districts statewide to participate in the voluntary state-funded COVID-19 school testing program. 

Safe, in-person learning has always been our priority—it’s better for students, it’s better for teachers, and it’s better for our community. Our goal continues to be to put the best possible health and safety strategies in place for our Kelso school community. 

The goals of providing on-site testing are:

  • reduce unnecessary learning loss

  • help slow the spread of the virus

  • protect our communities

  • keep our teachers, staff, students, and families safe and healthy

We are currently preparing for this ability and expect to be able to begin testing mid-March. All testing is voluntary. Free and easy COVID-19 tests will be available on-demand to any teacher, staff, or student showing symptoms on the CDC list.

Here is how the voluntary testing protocol will work: 

  • VOLUNTARY TESTING: We will provide tests for three purposes:

    1. A voluntary diagnostic test when needed. This is a same day, no barrier test when someone has a symptom or has been exposed.

    2. Voluntary testing if exposure occurs at school. If there is a case in school, it is critical to get all close contacts tested while they quarantine at home. Although a test does not negate the need to quarantine at home, it gives staff, students and their families more information that may help prevent additional transmission happen in the community.

    3. Regular testing for school staff. We have heard strong demand for asymptomatic testing from staff so they can ensure they are not positive but asymptomatic. In this voluntary program, a re-occurring voluntary testing schedule will be initiated at each school site/department across our district. 

  • POSITIVE CASE RESPONSE: When a positive case is identified, the school will activate its mitigation testing plan, offering (voluntary) free and easy testing to everyone who has been identified as a close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

  • CONTACT TRACING: As usual, every positive case will be reported to the county health department for case investigation and contact tracing, in order to prevent further transmission.

Our goal is to put the best possible strategies in place so that our teachers, staff, students and families feel safe, protected, and comfortable focusing on teaching and learning—and so our students can get the great education they deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Why should I get tested?

COVID-19 testing is a critical part of breaking chains of transmission so that we can find the virus and contain it before it spreads to anyone else. By offering COVID-19 testing through schools, we can make sure that every member of our community who wants a test can get a test, for free, using a painless oral swab to collect saliva that is mailed to a lab that will return results in about 48 hours. Getting tested is one thing that you can do to help protect the people in your community.  It is important to use the daily symptom and exposure check to make sure that people with symptoms, even mild ones, are not putting others at risk by coming to school or work. Getting tested at the first sign of symptoms or exposure means that a person with a negative COVID-19 test (and no exposure to someone with a positive COVID-19 test) can return to school or work in 24 hours and as soon as their symptoms improve. 

Q: How will schools determine who gets tested? How often will people have to get tested?

All testing is voluntary. Free and easy COVID-19 tests will be available on-demand to any teacher, staff or student showing any symptoms on the CDC list.  Kelso School District will also offer voluntary asymptomatic testing to staff either every two weeks. 

Q: Why should we start a COVID-19 testing program now? Can we just wait for the vaccine?

Our priority is to make sure students and teachers can feel safe in the classroom as soon as possible. We are excited about the new vaccines, but we also know that the production, delivery, and vaccination of everybody in our community will take some time. It is likely that not everyone will be vaccinated by the time school starts next fall. It is also unlikely that there will be a vaccine approved and available for children under 16 years old before the end of 2021. And, since vaccines are not 100% effective and there are new variants of the virus to worry about, even if you have been vaccinated, if you wake up with a cough and a fever or have other worrisome symptoms, you should still get a COVID-19 test right away.

Q: How does the testing program work? What is involved?

Oral swab tests: The WA Department of Health has partnered with a company called Curative, which uses painless oral swab test kits. Individuals can collect their own saliva sample under the observation of a trained test observer, and the experience feels a bit like brushing your teeth. The results from these oral swab tests are as reliable as the PCR nose swabs that you may have heard about, but they are easier to administer, and they do not hurt. Curative will train people designated by the school to hand out and collect the test kits, samples are sent to their lab daily, and they provide results within 48 hours from when you take the test.  In rare cases, we will be offering a 15-minute rapid antigen test.  This test must be provided to a staff or student by a medical professional and does required a nasal swab to be performed.  Our district nurse will be trained on this procedure. 

Q: Do I have to pay for the test? Do I need to have insurance?

Testing is free to you; there is no out-of-pocket cost or co-pay. Curative will ask you to provide insurance information if you have it, and they will bill your insurance directly; you will not receive a bill for your test. If you do not have health insurance,

you can still be tested at no charge, because the WA Department of Health will cover the cost. Only about 10% of tests fall into this category, and the state believes it is important to make sure that everybody who wants a test can get a test. 

Q: Who is paying for this? Where does the money come from?

This testing initiative is funded by the Washington State Department of Health. Individuals will be asked to share their insurance information for clinically-indicated tests to help keep the program financially sustainable.