Not every school district is testing students for COVID-19 anymore

Education

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — COVID-19 cases are on the rise at school districts across the area.

On Tuesday, Austin Public Health officials confirmed 67 unique clusters in Travis County schools since the beginning of the semester.

Now school districts are making changes, which they hope will limit the spread of the coronavirus.

In Round Rock ISD, beginning next Tuesday and continuing indefinitely, COVID-19 testing will be available every day with no appointment necessary for anyone in the community who wants one.

Leander ISD, which has the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases since the school year began, will also be launching a testing site in Gupton Stadium soon.

However, the reality is not every school district in the area is providing testing services to students.

Burnet CISD, Lake Travis ISD and Eanes ISD only offer COVID-19 tests for staff, not students. There’s not enough staffing to do both, the districts said. Keith McBurnett, the superintendent at Burnet CISD, said existing staff have to be pulled from their work assignments in order to test their colleagues.

But some parents believe if all school districts begin proactively testing, it will ultimately make schools safer.

“If they get funding from the government, and they get funding from each kid that goes to school, then they should be able to have that availability,” said Malena Cardenas, a mom of four in Burnet County.

The reality is any district that wants to increase its supply of testing kits only has to ask to receive them. The Texas Division of Emergency Management has shipped more than 350,000 test kits to schools within the last two weeks. And since its statewide school testing program was launched last year, the department has shipped more than 2.6 million kits across the entire state. Masks and PPE are also available upon request.

Other districts are better equipped to readily provide testing opportunities. The largest school district in the area, Austin ISD, provides kits to all of the health rooms on each of its campuses. The district has more than 20,000 rapid antigen test kits available. Symptomatic staff and students receive priority for testing, but asymptomatic individuals can check for availability to schedule a test.

Manor ISD also began providing tests to staff and students last week. Families can sign up online to book an appointment at the drive-thru testing site. There are around 1,600 kits in its inventory.

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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