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Huron-Superior school board prioritizing schools for COVID-19 testing

Testing of students, staff will be voluntary, administrator says
20200301-Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, H-SCDSB, winter, stock-DT-02
Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (H-SCDSB) office. File photo, Darren Taylor/SooToday

The Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (H-SCDSB) continues to prepare for testing of its students and staff for COVID-19.

Testing will be voluntary.

“Our board currently has a draft plan in place; however, discussions with the Ministry, the public health units and the vendor are continuing. We are relying on advice from the local public health units to prioritize schools,” wrote Christine Durocher, H-SCDSB superintendent in an email.

“The vendor that has been assigned to conduct the tests for the Huron-Superior board board is GVT Labs,” Durocher stated.  

GVT Labs has the rapid test and the PCR test available for students and staff.

Rapid antigen testing consists of taking a swab from the back of the nose and throat, or from saliva. The process, in some cases, can show results within 15 minutes.

PCR testing, involving a nasal swab, has been called the ‘gold standard’ in COVID-19 detection. Test results are available in two to three days, or in as little as 24 hours. Results can take a week or longer if there is a big demand for testing.

“Our health units will be making recommendations on which test should be used, taking into consideration the least invasive method and timely access to an assessment centre for follow-up. The testing for students and staff is completely voluntary and the vendor has an online portal for parents to register and provide consent for their child to have a test...we are pleased that we are able to work together to offer asymptomatic testing for the benefit and safety of our school communities,” Durocher wrote.

There are currently no confirmed dates for testing to begin at Huron-Superior schools, Durocher stated.

Meanwhile, “Algoma District School Board (ADSB) is now working through the process of selecting school locations where testing will occur,” wrote Fran Walsh, ADSB communications officer in an earlier email to SooToday.

In February, the Ministry of Education announced plans to expand targeted COVID-19 testing in schools for students, children and staff across Ontario. School boards have been asked to undertake asymptomatic targeted testing in at least five per cent of the elementary and secondary schools within their jurisdiction each week.

A government memo is encouraging boards “to prioritize schools in areas of high transmission, high case numbers, and schools where access to current testing programs may be challenging. While the five per cent target is on the number of schools where testing will occur, boards are also asked to reach two per cent of their student population per week. Testing will be for asymptomatic students and staff only.”

“Consent (as with H-SCDSB schools) will be required and the testing will be done on a voluntary basis. We will be communicating with school communities in the next week or so as we confirm our plans,” Walsh stated.

Walsh told us ADSB is also in conversation with other boards (such as the H-SCDSB) to determine if targeted testing could be done jointly, working closely with the region’s three local Public Health Units (Algoma Public Health, Sudbury Health Unit and Porcupine Health Unit) in continued collaboration.