Widespread COVID-19 testing kicks off at schools across Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Widespread asymptomatic testing of school students and teachers kicked off this month in Rhode Island.

The R.I. Department of Education offered all schools the option between a one-time testing event or bi-weekly testing. At last check, RIDE says 40 public and 25 private schools signed up for the school based testing program and 50,000 tests have been picked up by schools that have completed the training. 18 testing events have been scheduled so far.

Classical High School Nurse Sarah Larson helped kick-start the program at Classical High School once the Providence School District opted for bi-weekly testing at all their schools.

“We’ve had a lot of interest within our Classical community with a lot of staff members as well as students,” Larson said.

Larson says so far around 400 students signed up for testing, which is out of about 1,100 students in the high school. Testing is optional for students and parents have to sign a consent form before they head into the testing area.

“Students go into two separate testing locations and we have two people kind of proctoring those tests. So we give the students steps on what they need to do.”

Larson says the only thing students have to do is swab their noses and the nurses will take care of the rest. Results are ready in 15 minutes and after that, students can return back to the classroom if they’re negative.

“Last week was the first week we started it. We tested about 200 students and staff in total, but nobody tested positive,” Larson said. “It’s important to note that we are using the BinaxNOW rapid test, so it’s not as sensitive as a PCR test.”

While the results are promising, only asymptomatic people are tested. The hope is to provide another layer of reassurance and support in the classroom.

“We’re really trying to put every safety measure in place,” Larson said. “We all, including students and staff, take it very seriously.”

Larson also says that while most people have been tested at some point before, quite a few children have not and the process can be intimidating. She says the BinaxNOW tests they use are not as invasive as the PCR tests and they’ll walk students through every step.

In addition, not every school has opted to join the testing program and some students are still in distance learning. Central Falls, for example, made testing times available to students who are distance learning. The Department of Education says if you don’t have the opportunity for routine testing and you want it, to talk to your school’s administrator about options.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Our Schools, Providence, Rhode Island