Students could be tested regularly for COVID-19 | February 26, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 26, 2021

Students could be tested regularly for COVID-19

District looks to partner with new company for tests with quick turnaround

by Elena Kadvany

With Palo Alto Unified gearing up to bring more students and teachers back to campuses this spring, district leadership is looking to expand COVID-19 testing to include any students, teachers and staff members, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic.

Staff are recommending that all students, faculty and staff who are regularly on campus participate in diagnostic and surveillance screening on a "regular cadence" starting the week of March 1. All employees working in-person will be required to get tested at least every other week and within five days of returning from out-of-town travel. All students in grades K-5 attending school in person will be encouraged to get tested at the same frequency. Secondary students on campuses will be advised to get tested on a weekly basis.

"Though the evidence continues to evolve, we have learned from examples of what works and what does not work since reopening schools. We believe expanding testing will position PAUSD to further reduce the chances of transmission on our campuses," a staff report states.

The school board briefly discussed the plan Tuesday; it will come back for formal action at a future meeting.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has no recommendation for student testing but has suggested surveillance testing once a month for adults in contact with students and a maximum of once every two weeks for asymptomatic employees, Superintendent Don Austin said.

The district currently offers on-site testing through Stanford Health Care only to employees twice a month. In January, Stanford saw a spike in COVID-19 testing demand across the area, and the district wasn't able to offer testing to any employees who hadn't already used the service.

Because of this, the district is looking to partner with a new testing service: Predicine Inc., a Hayward cancer research company that also now offers a quick polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test authorized by the Food and Drug Administration with a 24- to 48-hour result turnaround time as well as a self-administered take-home test kit. The testing will be free for students and staff, including anyone without insurance.?

In response to a question from board member Jennifer DiBrienza on Tuesday night, Precidine Chief Technology Officer Winston Kuo clarified that the company will not report undocumented students or staff and will only ask for their name, date of birth, phone number and email.

Since August, 21 students and 31 staff members who have been at schools in person have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district's online dashboard.

Teri Baldwin, president of the teachers union, said she was encouraged by the proposal to offer testing to students to keep transmission on campuses low.

"I hope parents will opt into that so we can make sure we have accurate numbers," she told the school board.

Nearly 60% of sixth graders will be going back to school for hybrid learning on March 2. Seventh and eighth graders as well as high schoolers will be able to Zoom from inside their classrooms once Santa Clara County moves into the red tier, which could be as soon as next week if public health conditions continue to improve. Students will be divided into two groups and assigned two days a week to be on campus. About 120 high school students are already on campuses for small group cohorts.

At the elementary campuses, more than 2,100 students are now attending hybrid school in person. And as of this week, three small classes at Addison and Hoover elementary schools are piloting a full return to school five days a week.

"Given the success of our first week, we should expect slow growth of pilots in the next few weeks," Austin wrote in his weekly update. "This is a first step for a full return in the fall for all students."

Staff Writer Elena Kadvany can be emailed at [email protected]

Comments

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2021 at 1:44 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Frequent testing works. My daughter attends a university where they test everyone on campus weekly by appointment, so people don't waste time standing in line. If you test positive, you go into quarantine. This, in addition to thoughtful behavior protocols, including masking and maintaining very small circles, facilities adaptations, etc limited the number of Covid cases on campus to 13 last semester while infections raged in nearby communities. (Campus student population is nearly 6,000 students and I don't remember the number of faculty and staff.)

An additional benefit of regular testing is reduction of anxiety. My daughter actually looks forward to being tested each week when she knows for certain that she is healthy and she isn't carrying the infection. I have to say, that reduces my concern for her too. Regular testing is a good thing.


Posted by Angela Lifman
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2021 at 3:02 am

Angela Lifman is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by kanekiikenn
a resident of Addison School
on May 11, 2021 at 3:03 am

kanekiikenn is a registered user.

#I believe that children should study in schools, not at home.

Yes, but the disease still hasn't receded. And I'm scared to send my daughter to school. And let it be better for her to study at school.


Posted by Angela Lifman
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2021 at 10:18 am

Angela Lifman is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2021 at 12:38 pm

eileen is a registered user.

High school and middle school kids can get a vaccine now. Just test the kids that do not get a vaccine, that way kids can go back to school in person.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2021 at 10:48 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Kids are in schools w/o much drama all over the U.S.


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