SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The number of COVID-19 cases reported in schools continues to rise.
On Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported just under 90,000 COVID-19 cases among students and staff so far this school year.
Locally, Leander Independent School District reports the most total cases at just over 1,100. Lago Vista Independent School District has seen the largest percentage of COVID-19 cases at 9% of students and staff combined.
But another local district, San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, is only seeing about 1.5% of its school population testing positive. The district just ended its third week of school with 141 COVID-19 cases.
Spokesperson Andrew Fernandez says that’s up from just 27 in their first week.
“If they come in with symptoms, we meet them outside on the carpool lines. They don’t get out of their vehicle, and we test them,” Fernandez said.
He says case numbers and the quarantining process have forced a few classrooms to close.
So, they want to take protective measures a step farther with a tested tool, to stay ahead of cases and minimize the number of students who have to quarantine: They want to bring weekly COVID-19 testing to all students and staff.
“Asymptomatic testing will allow students who are being recommended to quarantine, what they can do is that if they’re not experiencing any symptoms, now the asymptomatic testing can provide a test for them and see if they can come back to our classroom or continue with the quarantine process,” Fernandez explained.
It’s called assurance testing, and it’s what Somerset Independent School District in Bexar County started doing last year, when KXAN caught up with them.
Now, the superintendent credits the system for allowing them to keep more than 80% of their students in-person last year.
“Secondly, Somerset ISD outperformed the state in many academic areas, at practically all grade levels,” Saul Hinojosa wrote in an email to KXAN News. “Thirdly, we were one of only 10 school districts across the state of Texas that saw an increase in their Reading and Math STAAR scores when compared to 2019.”
Hinojosa says they are doing assurance testing this school year, too.
Community Labs is behind the PCR tests for 11 school districts.
This year, the lab says it’s testing more students, since more of them are back in person. That’s an average of about 50,000 people tested per week.
But a spokesperson says they need more state funding to help more public schools.
“We know that the best learning is happening inside our schools,” said Fernandez, who hopes his district can be the next one to collaborate with Community Labs.
The nonprofit says it’s reviewing the numbers for each district to make sure testing can be funded through its current agreement with the state.
“We want our students to be inside our school buildings, but we also want them to remain at home if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, and so really that’s just the tough part of navigating this school year,” Fernandez said.
Community Labs says it’s expecting Texas to allocate more federal dollars for school districts to be able to pick an approved vendor for COVID-19 testing.
KXAN reached out to the state for an update on when that could be. We’ll let you know when we hear back.
Meanwhile, the lab also partners with private businesses for assurance testing and says it expects an increase in requests as companies react to President Joe Biden’s new requirement for vaccinations or testing for larger employers.
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