COVID-19 Testing Program – A New Standard in Public Education
To All in the School Community,
I hope this note finds you and your family safe and well. It’s been six long months since school facilities closed due to the pandemic. We all want students back in the best learning environment, a classroom, as soon as possible. But we need to balance sometimes conflicting objectives – the learning needs of students, the impact the virus is having on working families and protecting the health and safety of the school community. Our goal is to ensure that when health conditions in the area allow for a return by students to schools, we bring them back in the safest way possible.
Our return-to-school plan has three main parts – state-of-the-art health practices at schools, COVID-19 testing for students and staff and the ability to notify and isolate any members of the school community who may have come in contact with the virus.
The health practices are in place. Classrooms and facilities are electrostatically cleaned top to bottom, air-conditioning systems have been upgraded with the equivalent of N-95 filters, personal protective equipment is provided to all individuals at a campus and classrooms and facilities have been reconfigured to keep all at a school a safer distance apart. When students do return to schools, they’ll be kept in small cohorts to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. And as we learn of other ways to enhance health practices, we’ll incorporate them as quickly as possible.
The effort to test for the virus in the school community is now under way. While unprecedented, the virus testing, community engagement and contact-tracing program is necessary and appropriate as we must do everything we can to protect the health and safety of all in the school community. I want to provide you with a brief overview of how the health screening and COVID-19 testing program will work.
All students and staff will be offered an initial, baseline COVID-19 test sometime in the next several weeks. We’ve already provided tests for staff who are currently working at schools as well their children who are participating in childcare. The week of October 5th we’ll start offering tests to all staff, whether they are working at a school or not, as well as students who are enrolled in early education centers and elementary schools. As you can imagine, with almost 700,000 students and more than 75,000 employees, it will take some time to complete. Once the elementary students are receiving tests, we’ll begin to offer testing to middle and high school students as well. Testing will also be offered to family members of those who test positive or show symptoms of the virus.
These initial tests will provide valuable information about the incidence of COVID-19 in the communities we serve to inform the scientists, researchers and epidemiologists who are assisting with the program. The baseline testing will help reduce the spread of the disease by identifying those with the virus so they can be kept apart from others.
Immediately prior to the reopening of schools, all students and staff who will be returning to schools, will be provided with a further, back-to-school, baseline test. Students whose families choose for them to remain in online instruction and staff who are not working at schools will not be part of the testing program once students return to school facilities. The students and staff at schools will continue to be part of a program with periodic testing based on advice from our science partners.
The testing process is simple. You’ll receive a notice from your child’s principal (for students) or immediate supervisor (for employees) that it’s time to be tested. Future notifications will be sent electronically via the new Daily Pass App. You can make an appointment online, using a phone or computer including the one Los Angeles Unified has provided, at one of the many schools where testing is being provided. There’s a quick check-in upon arrival at the site and a clinician will be there to help oversee the testing. While we recommend the use of nasal swabs, anyone can request a sputum test if they prefer. Both tests are what’s known as PCR tests, the gold standard for COVID-19 testing. The test is free and the process should take less than 10 minutes, start to finish.
You’ll receive the test result within 24-36 hours via text and email. All results will be kept confidential and stored in a separate, secure database. Information will be shared only with the appropriate scientists, administrators and health authorities.
You will also receive a text or email asking you to download a Daily Pass App built for Los Angeles Unified by Microsoft that helps tie all parts of the program together. All students, staff and visitors will be able to use the App to be admitted to a campus, much like one uses an electronic ticket to attend a Dodgers’ game or board an airplane at LAX.
The App will help you with a simple, daily health check and inform you when it’s time for a COVID-19 test. In simple terms, after an initial, negative test and as long as an individual shows no symptoms, the App will admit that person to a school campus or district facility. If the test is positive or symptoms appear, then the individual will be referred to the appropriate health authorities for care.
A pilot program to test the App will be conducted at several schools this week. Feedback gathered during the pilot will assist us as we roll out the Daily Pass App for use by all in the school community. An email or text will be sent in another week or so with a link that includes instructions on how to download the App. More information can be found at https://achieve.lausd.net/covidtesting, on Los Angeles Unified’s YouTube channel (@LosAngelesSchools) or by calling the Helpdesk at (213) 443-1300. Here’s a short video which helps explain the testing process.
While the testing is not mandatory for employees working from home, we appreciate your participation in this important program. Much like efforts to screen for tuberculosis or other infectious diseases, this program will be more effective if everyone is part of it. We’ll continue to keep you informed on our plans to bring students back to schools in the safest way possible.
Thank you for your continued patience and support.