Last November, McSwain Union Elementary School in northern California was living two realities.
The school with about 850 students in Merced had a waiver to conduct in-person learning. But it couldn’t keep teachers in the building because of exposure to positives cases of COVID-19.
In January, the school started testing teachers and then students for the virus, even if they weren’t showing symptoms. Since then, regular, rapid antigen testing has caught five positive cases of staff members and one positive student who were either pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, said Superintendent Roy Mendiola.
Those people and their close contacts were immediately sent home, but everyone else could stay in school.
“I’m not saying we should give up any of the other (in-school safety) protocols, but the antigen testing gives us an immediate response,” Mendiola said in a recent webinar.
As part of the push under President Joe Biden to reopen schools, the administration announced this week it would make $10 billion available for K-12 schools to expand COVID-19 screening of staff and students. Quick, rapid antigen tests that offer results in 15 minutes, like the ones used at McSwain Elementary, are likely to be adopted more broadly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week released new recommendations in tandem with Biden’s school-testing initiative. Biden administration officials say more details are coming, but the lack of national coordination so far has…