Seguin ISD has instituted a program to test students and staff for infection of the coronavirus.

The pilot program began targeting students and staff who were exposed to COVID-19, Seguin ISD District Chief Communications Officer Sean Hoffmann said.

“At this point, we would like to focus on testing students and staff who are in quarantine or experiencing symptoms,” he said. “We are currently determining how to implement the program to maximize effectiveness in our schools.”

Seguin ISD received 1,480 rapid nose swab COVID-19 test kits Nov. 5 through a program administered by the Texas Education Association, Hoffmann said.

The education agency partnered with the Texas Division of Emergency Management to distribute the rapid, low-tech testing kits, according to the state’s emergency management website.

“As part of this project, school systems are provided with delivery of the Abbott BinaxNow test kits, personal protective equipment, product training, and support to refill supplies as available,” the website read. “Independent school districts and private schools which opt into this program will be required to report all test results — positive, negative or inconclusive — as required by law.”

Following receipt of the kits, Seguin ISD began developing a plan into a pilot program that started Tuesday specifically for students and staff quarantined due to close contact at school, Hoffmann said.

As part of the plan, school nurses, athletic trainers, and administrators began receiving state-mandated training on how to administer the tests, he said. Once administered, the tests provide speedy results, Hoffmann said.

“Test results can be ready in about 15 minutes,” he said. “Individuals tested receive a follow-up email with the results.”

Seguin ISD students may get tested but only with prior written consent from a parent or guardian, Hoffmann said.

Superintendents in Marion and Navarro said their school districts declined participation in the statewide program. Both have decided to take other routes to monitor infection rates among staff and students.

“We have a medical clinic working closely with us to facilitate testing as needed,” Marion Superintendent Kelly Lindholm said. “We have had a total of five test positive cases since we opened the doors on Aug. 12, and one of the five positive cases was a remote student.”

Everyone in Marion Independent School District schools follow CDC, Texas Department of State Health Services and University Interscholastic League suggested guidelines for campus and extracurricular activities, Lindholm said.

Navarro ISD has many facilities available for testing and district leadership did not want to be liable for COVID testing of staff and students, Superintendent Wendi Russell said. As of Friday, Navarro had 14 reports of positive COVID-19 cases, 11 students and three adults, Russell said.

The district continues its vigilance in keeping infections low, Russell said.

“To help minimize the spread of COVID, we require masks for all ages, we take temperatures daily, we social distance as possible, we disinfect continuously throughout the day and follow TEA guidelines,” she said.

Seguin ISD students and staff strictly follow CDC guidelines as well, Hoffmann said. The district keeps and posts a running tally of COVID-19 cases in a chart on its website.

As of Thursday, district personnel had been made aware of 19 students who had tested positive for the virus since Sept. 1, according to the chart online. During the same time period, the district had been made aware of 16 staff members who tested positive.

As of Friday, the district had tested five staff members and 13 students in the pilot testing program, Hoffmann said. All 18 results were negative, he said.

Seguin ISD leaders are considering allowing quarantined staff and students to be voluntarily tested twice weekly so that they can return to school or work if test results are negative, Hoffmann said. Those who have positive test result still would follow protocols already in place for positive cases.

“Overall, the district is pleased with these low numbers considering we’ve been in school for about two months now,” Hoffmann said. “We feel these numbers are a testament to the dedication of our students and staff and their focus on safety, health, wearing masks, washing hands and following the safety protocols that have been recommended by the CDC.”

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at .

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