COVID-19 rapid testing in schools program expanding 

COVID-19 rapid testing in schools program expanding pic 1
Premier Jason Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange provided an update on the COVID-19 rapid testing program in schools. Up to 440,000 test kits will be available for the program expansion. Testing teams will set up at selected schools to screen students and staff who don’t have symptoms and have signed consent forms. Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

Up to 440,000 test kits will be available for the program expansion

The in-school rapid COVID-19 screening test program will expand to 300 schools in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Grande Prairie.

“We are stepping up our fight against COVID-19 by expanding the rapid testing program in Alberta schools to ensure students, teachers, and staff remain safe. Rapid testing in schools offers another layer of protection to our schools,” said Premier, Jason Kenney.

Rapid test kits will be distributed to schools, and testing will be offered to up to 220,000 students and staff across Alberta. Teams may also be deployed at a school outside of the four communities when Alberta Health identifies a need at a specific school.

Junior and senior high schools will be prioritized based on a variety of factors, including the prevalence of COVID-19 in the school and community.

“I am pleased to significantly expand on our successful rapid testing pilot in schools to more students and staff in more communities. Rapid test screening is one more tool to limit the spread of the virus in schools and ensure students can keep learning safely from the classroom,” said Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange.

Provincial officials will work with school authorities to determine which schools will participate. Testing teams will set up at selected schools to screen students and staff who don’t have symptoms and have signed consent forms.

Rapid screening tests may potentially detect the virus quickly in people who don’t have symptoms, allowing them to immediately isolate and limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Expanding rapid testing to schools is just the latest example of the leading role we’ve taken in testing throughout the pandemic. It’s another tool to help keep schools opening safely, as part of our commitment to keeping Albertans safe while we maintain activities that are important to families and communities,” said Minister of Health, Tyler Shandro. 

Up to 440,000 test kits will be available for the program expansion. The number of schools where testing is offered may vary each week depending on the size of the school and the time needed to administer the tests. 

Students and staff who do not have symptoms, and have not been identified as close contacts, can get tested while attending school, as testing is optional.

Results will be available at the school usually within an hour. Students and staff who get a positive result after a rapid test will not be able to return to class and will isolate.

Positive results from rapid tests are considered preliminary and must be confirmed with a lab-based test at an Alberta Health Services assessment centre.

“The expansion of the rapid testing program in schools is welcome, but it is not enough. This decision is reactive, and late when schools need proactive solutions in this race against COVID-19 spread. The government has made keeping schools open a priority, so they need to make keeping the safety of people working and learning in those buildings a priority,” said the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) President Jason Schilling.

“Teachers and parents are very concerned about the rapid spread of variants of concern in our communities and schools. Last November, secondary schools moved online with 1700 cases in schools, currently, we have 2400 cases in schools, many of them variants of concern and nearly one-in-five schools have alerts or outbreaks. The government should be looking hard at scenario two in their reopening strategy

which calls for a blend of at-home and in-school learning with reduced class sizes,” Schilling said.

Adding, “The most mindboggling part of today’s announcement is the decision to exclude school workers from expansions to the vaccination program. This is the single biggest thing that would make teachers feel safer. Contrary to the premier’s statements, this is offside

with national recommendations on immunization and with what is happening in most other provinces.”

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