Issue 6 Magazine News

AUHSD Conducts COVID-19 Testing of Staff and Community

By Lukas Carbone

Graphic By Jackie Veliz

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Acalanes Union High School District has remained closed and mostly lacking campus instruction, with state mandates and rules requiring the District to remain in distance learning despite a Board vote to reopen on January 5. However, despite these mandates, AUHSD has seen many of its staff members return to campus, including mandatory campus attendance as of the week from February 1-February 5.

Accompanying returns to campus, both the staff’s real return and the students’ theoretical return, has been AUHSD offering COVID-19 testing, both to students, to staff, and to other community members – testing that, in the cases of staff members, has now become mandatory. According to Las Lomas Nurse Kathleen Mooney, “Testing has been offered since December and became mandatory in February… [as] all staff members are required to [take a] Curative COVID Antigen Oral Swab test at each site. If staff members cannot test at their home site, they are offered other appointments at other AUHSD sites. Most of our staff was tested on Thursday, February 6 during several different appointment slots. Prior to the mandatory campus attendance this past week, the COVID screening was optional and many staff members who were already working on campus came to do the voluntary screening.” Mooney also said that these testing numbers are “uniform [and all staff is testing]… across the district.” She believes that “most teachers are appreciative that AUHSD is offering weekly testing on site.”

Thus far, however, Mooney said that “our staff testing has not found any positive cases of COVID-19 at the four comprehensive high schools (Acalanes, Campolindo, Las Lomas, or Miramonte) or the Acalanes Center for Independent Study. We have had reported cases of staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19. For staff members at our four comprehensive sites and ACIS, all the cases of COVID-19 were contracted off school campuses.”

In addition to offering COVID-19 testing to staff members, AUHSD has offered testing to students and other community members. As said by Mooney, “AUHSD has been offering testing to the community almost every Monday. These COVID-19 testing events have been rotating through the four comprehensive high schools. Las Lomas hosted an event on January 25th and is scheduled to host another event on March 1st.” Student testing is not mandatory at the time of writing, but in an email to parents and guardians on February 16, AUHSD Superintendent John Nickerson said that “testing of students will be an expectation as students return to campus.”

Although the tests of staff members have, at the time of writing, only resulted in negative tests for COVID-19, this 0% positivity rate has not been the case for these general tests. Mooney said that most positive tests were not of AUHSD students, but rather of their family members: “Our community testing has found positive cases of COVID. However, most of the positive tests were not AUHSD students. Almost all the positive test results were from either parents or college-aged siblings.”

According to Kathleen Mooney, “[Vaccine distribution] is up to the County Health Department. The plan for vaccine dispersal has changed multiple times and AUHSD as well as other school districts have offered their facilities and to help any way that they can.” At this time, however, whatever these rapidly-changing vaccine distribution plans, the Contra Costa County Health Department does not have plans to utilize AUHSD campuses for vaccine distribution, instead preferring a larger facility: “Right now the County plan is to vaccinate educators and one large facility.” Mooney also said that “there is not a plan to vaccinate students,” because of the fact that “the vaccine for people under the age of 16 is in clinical trials and does not have FDA approval yet.”

Summarizing AUHSD involvement in Contra Costa County’s vaccine distribution, Kathleen Money said, “the plan is up to the County Health Department but AUHSD would be [willing] to do whatever it can to help vaccinate our students and community members.”

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