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."