AURORA | A testing site for employees in school districts across the metro area, including Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District, opened Tuesday.
COVIDCheck Colorado, a program of the Gary Community Investments foundation, opened five testing sites for teachers and staff in eight school districts, according to a news release from the foundation. Hinkley High School in Aurora and Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village are two of the testing sites.
Mike Johnston, CEO of Gary Community Investments, said the foundation chose to focus on offering testing to schools because it believes that getting schools back in session is crucial for low-income children and their families. The foundation reached out to local health departments, which passed along the information to school districts, and Aurora Public Schools became the first district to partner with the foundation.
Employees from any of the participating districts can get tested at any of the locations. The tests will be free to employees, with the $10 per test cost being covered by the school district, Aurora Public Schools spokesperson Corey Christiansen said.
The cost of the testing is being subsidized by the foundation, which has also been able to get a discounted rate from labs because it is providing a steady number of tests on a guaranteed timetable since it plans to test everyone regardless of whether they have symptoms, Johnston said.
Teachers and other staff members who work at a school or who interact regularly with students will be eligible to get tested every 14 days, Christiansen said, even now while the district is doing remote-only learning. District staff that does not interact regularly with the public will be eligible to get tested once a month.
About 25,000 employees will be tested each two weeks, Johnston said. Students and teachers will also be given access to an app to track their symptoms.
Employees who develop potential COVID-19 symptoms can get tested again immediately.
“A teacher wakes up and might have a symptom, even if they just got tested five days ago they can come in and get tested right away again,” Johnston said.
Test results from COVIDCheck will be available within 72 hours, Christiansen said.
“Which is fantastic from our perspective as a school district because it gives us data in a timely manner,” he said.
In some parts of the state, COVID-19 test results are now taking 10 to 14 days to be delivered.
“When it takes that long the test results are not that valuable,” he said. The quick testing will be “a huge plus” for the district and will allow it to quickly contact trace when necessary.
The Aurora Public Schools board of education voted to have remote-only learning through at least Oct. 8, but Christiansen said that having access to quick COVID-19 testing will be a very powerful tool in transitioning back to in-person learning.
“Aurora has the real chance to be a model for the rest of the country on figuring out how we can protect the safety and health of our teachers and our students and find a way to reopen schools in a way that will protect public health and serve communities at the same time,” Johnston said.