School boards in action: Districts ramp up testing, contact tracing and vaccination efforts

Up and down California, local educational agency boards are working tirelessly to make sure students can safely return to campus as quickly as possible in areas that are still in distance learning, and have everything they need to be academically, social-emotionally and physically supported — no matter which mode of learning they are in.

In the past week alone, as COVID-19 positivity rates have trended down, LEAs have begun to ramp up implementation of a number of the strategies that board members have been crafting with the help of labor and community input.

In Los Angeles Unified School District, officials are rolling out a Microsoft-supported “Daily Pass” app to enable school staff to quickly isolate anyone at a school who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has contracted the virus once campuses reopen. The app’s software is already being used to schedule and track district-managed coronavirus tests and vaccinations.

In a Feb. 22 press conference, Superintendent Austin Beutner explained that the app generates a unique QR code for each student and staff member authorizing entry to a specific LAUSD location for that day. A person will receive that code based on a negative coronavirus test or by self-reporting that they are free of symptoms. When those individuals arrive at a campus, their QR code is scanned by a staff member, who also takes the individual’s temperature. Besides helping to keep people safe, he said, the goal is to prevent logjams at the front door.

Elsewhere, LEAs are working to simultaneously boost vaccination and testing efforts. On Feb. 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the Alameda County Office of Education, which partnered with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to host a mobile vaccination clinic focused on providing doses for the local education workforce. The mobile vaccination clinic had vaccinated about 750 school employees in the prior three days.

“Our first focus continues to be on prioritizing the limited supply of vaccine for education personnel currently serving students, and we are gratified to host this mobile vaccination clinic to further our progress toward this goal,” Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L. K. Monroe said in a statement. “As opportunities arise to connect the education workforce to vaccines, our agency is mobilizing every resource available to ensure those who otherwise might not have access to appointments are notified when it’s their turn in line.”

That same day, medical professionals, including some school district nurses, began vaccinating Sacramento City USD teachers in partnership with Dignity Health. More than 1,000 district employees were vaccinated on the first day. Through a partnership with Priority Urgent Care, the 650-employee Rosedale Union School District in Bakersfield was able to begin vaccinating more than a third of its staff this week.

Natomas USD in Sacramento County is partnering with the county public health department and

Dr. Rusty Oshita, a physician with Urgent Care Now, to offer anyone in the community vaccinations, following the eligibility guidelines from the state. To help spread the word, the district is partnering with the City of Sacramento District 1 Mayor Pro-Tem Angelique Ashby’s team to specifically reach seniors who may be unaware they can get vaccinated in their own community.

McSwain Union Elementary School District — a two-school K-8 district in Merced — partnered with the state and county health departments to pilot an on-site rapid COVID-19 antigen testing program. A pre-pilot took place prior to the winter break, with about 25 percent of staff and a few school board members electing to participate. District Superintendent Roy Mendiola worked with a team that included state and county health leaders, officials from the Public Health Institute who coordinated training and paperwork for the pilot, and Primary.Health, which managed the web-based platform for organizing testing logistics and information.

By mid-February with the pilot in full swing, there was an 80 percent participation rate from staff who are offered the testing twice a week, and the district has begun a pilot testing program for students. Testing for students is optional with parental consent and is being planned for once a week, according to Mendiola.


Image source: Alameda County Office of Education