KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools announced a new COVID-19 mitigation strategy with the help of partners that include Children's Mercy Hospital.
With help from a consulting and digital services provider called ICF, KCPS and Children's Mercy joined forces to provide COVID-19 testing within some of the district's schools.
The district believes testing is an important part of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 along with vaccination, masking and other precautions.
The testing program began in one elementary school, one middle school and one high school, but it has since expanded to eight KCPS schools.
There are now four elementary schools participating, which Children's Mercy said is especially important since students that age cannot be vaccinated.
Staff and students are given a PCR test which is then sent to the lab at Children's Mercy. The result of the test is returned to the school nurse within a day or two so that proper protocols can be followed if the test turns out positive.
Children's Mercy spokesperson Dr. Jennifer Goldman said they wanted to learn more about how testing can work within a school.
One thing they have already learned is that staff and students prefer a self-administered nasal swab over a spit test.
They're also learning how each school is different and unique and learning how to support those schools without getting in the way of learning.
"We've become very efficient; we were able to test 40 students and staff last week within an hour," Goldman said.
Each school tests 10% of its students and staff, who have given consent every week, along with anyone who may show symptoms.
When the program began at the end of last year, Goldman said the interest was initially low. She said testing has ramped up with the start of the fall semester.
"Right now, we've enrolled over 500 children and staff who are interested in this program," Goldman said.
Parental consent is required for students to be tested, which is completely voluntary and free.
KCPS uses several means to reach families and in a variety of languages. They use everything from newsletters to meeting with parents as students are brought to and from after-school programs.
Other schools in KCPS also conduct testing, but with a different partner, according to district spokesperson Sara Williams.