Austin school parking lot doubles as long-term COVID-19 community testing site


AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin charter school is trying to stay ahead of the COVID-19 spread. It’s offering community COVID-19 testing on campus.

“We started tracking where the highest rate of cases were occurring, in which zip codes,” said Ricardo Chavana, Austin Achieve Public Schools front office coordinator.

That’s when he and his team realized many of their students lived in areas with high COVID-19 case rates and had limited access to testing.

“Without having a healthy population at schools, we’re going to see an erosion in our attendance levels, our educational levels, our economic growth levels,” Chavana said. “Without testing, we were flying blindly.”

So, he reached to the Texas Department of Emergency Management for help and said TDEM provided a list of COVID-19 testing companies the agency approved.

“We wanted PCR, we wanted bilingual, we wanted expanded hours,” Chavana said.

They chose Dascena, Inc.

“If a parent is dropping off their kid or kids, they can come in and get tested before they leave the school site. So, that’s the uniqueness of this site,” said Rajat Kaushik, Dascena Austin manager.

Kaushik said they’ve operated a few other COVID-19 testing sites for TDEM, but this is their first school site which is also long-term. It started out as a one-month partnership and is now being extended indefinitely with expanded hours.

Austin Achieve Public Schools is currently the only grade school system in Central Texas listed on the state’s map of COVID-19 test sites. (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

Chavana says the site currently operates Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Starting Monday, he says it will expand to seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The location, Austin Achieve’s elementary school at 7424 E. Hwy 290, Building 1, is now listed on the state’s website as a testing site for the community.

“They ensured what is the test being delivered, how it’ll be delivered — so there was a quality check before they engaged us,” Kaushik said.

Chavana said TDEM is covering the costs of the site, which is walk up and drive up. He and Kaushik hope other schools can replicate this model in their communities.

“The company’s vision is that we have to get as many people tested as possible so that if there’s a person or a group that has COVID-19, they can know their status. And once they know their status they can isolate themselves and prevent further infection,” Kaushik said.

“Our families feel comfortable in knowing that we have the ability to do some testing here,” Chavana said.

You do not have to be symptomatic to get tested at the Austin Achieve site or attend the schools. You can also just show up to register and get tested. The tests are free and open to the public.

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