LAMPASAS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott, along with the Texas Education Agency and Texas Emergency Management, will be rolling out a COVID-19 rapid testing pilot program to a few Texas school districts.
According to a release from Abbott’s office, the program will provide rapid antigen tests to participating school districts to give to students, teachers and staff who opt to be tested.
Schools in the program will also get personal protective equipment to use when administering the test. The tests give results in 15 minutes, according to the state.
“This program will help schools conduct rapid tests of district employees and students —with the written permission of their parents — to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campuses,” the release said.
For now, the pilot will include eight school districts, but the plan is to eventually roll out the program to schools across Texas. Both public and private schools wanting to participate will be able to apply through the TEA in two weeks, on Oct. 28.
The eight participating school systems include two districts in KXAN’s coverage area (in bold):
- Bob Hope School in Port Arthur
- Fabens ISD in El Paso County
- Grace Community School in Tyler
- Granger ISD in Williamson County
- Lampasas ISD in Lampasas County
- Longview ISD in Gregg County
- Harlingen Consolidated ISD in Cameron County
- Ysleta ISD in El Paso
Lampasas ISD was one of the first districts in Central Texas to start in-person learning on Aug. 10. Since then, the district has been able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing and mask-wearing.
This school year, the district has had 32 positive COVID-19 cases, but there were no rapid tests available to students and staff within Lampasas city limits. According to Superintendent Chane Rascoe, many in the district would travel to surrounding areas to get tested, which complicated contact tracing.
“The local health authority would not be contacted for several days in relation to a positive test, so we were having delays in close contact tracing of those kids and tracking them down to make sure they would quarantine,” said Rascoe.
With the state’s new pilot program, district leaders do not expect to encounter those same delays. The district will receive about 600 rapid antigen tests.
Starting Monday, the district will test about 75 teachers who have signed up and develop a roll-out plan for student testing. Staff members can go to AdventHealth Central Texas Family Medicine Clinic-Lampasas and show their school ID for testing.
The process will be different for students. They will have to exhibit symptoms and get a referral note from the school nurse.
The free rapid tests will only be available at AdventHealth Central Texas Family Medicine Clinic-Lampasas and are completely voluntary. The district says it is partnering with the Family Medicine Clinic to ensure testing accuracy.
The district hopes these new rapid tests will continue to mitigate the spread of the virus as more students continue to opt for in-person learning.