The Marble Falls Independent School district plans to offer rapid COVID-19 testing for staff and students in the coming weeks, the school board heard at its Monday, Dec. 14, meeting.
The district will have several staffed trained in administering the tests, including school nurses and MFISD Executive Director of Instructional Services Yarda Leflet. The plan is to use a central testing location to minimize exposure on campuses.
“We have a plan that uses phases to roll it out to different groups of people so that we can make sure that we have all of our protocols and processes in line and we don’t do it all at one time in a way that causes there to be reporting errors,” Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen said.
The three-phase plan is:
- Phase 1 — testing symptomatic staff and students
- Phase 2 — testing asymptomatic staff and students to shorten close contact quarantine
- Phase 3 — testing asymptomatic staff and students
The move comes at the same time Burnet Consolidated Independent School District has announced its plan to administer rapid COVID-19 tests to staff who volunteer, and possibly students in the future.
The rapid test is from Abbott Labs. Dubbed the BinaxNOW test, it takes only 15 minutes to get results. The test package is the size of a credit card and contains a nasal swab and testing solution.
“It’s what we call the shallow nasal swab,” Allen said. “It is in the nose, but it isn’t the nasal swab that goes deep into the nasal cavity that was used earlier in the pandemic. This will not create discomfort.”
The tests are provided as a joint effort between the Texas Education Agency, Texas Health and Human Services, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Rapid testing serves as an additional screening tool to prevent the coronavirus from spreading on campus and provide another source of testing to quickly respond to positive cases and remove the carriers before they can spread the virus at school.
“What we want people to know is that they need to monitor district communication as we share more information about how they might be able to receive a test if they need one,” Allen said. “Our hope is that this may allow us to make changes to our safety plans in a way that will allow us to return to more normal operations sooner than if we hadn’t received these tests at all.”
Aside from a spike of cases in November that Allen attributes to pandemic fatigue and community spread, the number of infected students and employees has been relatively low.
“We are now back down to pre-November numbers,” Allen said. “I think the community has done better. Our protocols have always been pretty tight. When we saw the jump prior to Thanksgiving break, it was community based. I don’t think we saw the big jump in the schools that might have been anticipated after Thanksgiving.
“I’m exceptionally proud of our staff in the way that they have put our protocols in place and maintained them,” he added. “Our numbers have ebbed and flowed in a way that we’ve been able to manage instead of just skyrocketing up and getting out of control, so we’re pretty pleased with the way we’ve been sitting.”