Walla Walla Public Schools accepted to WA State Learn to Return COVID testing program
Walla Walla Public Schools will have access to free COVID-19 testing services for students and staff as part of the new Learn to Return partnership with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Health Commons. Test supplies and support are provided at no cost to the school district. Rapid results provide results within 15 minutes utilizing a self-administered, shallow nasal swab test. Additionally, the district will have access to a non-invasive saliva based PCR test, considered the “gold standard,” receiving results typically within 48 hours.
“Testing is one critical element of an effective COVID response, allowing positive cases to be identified, isolated, and contact-traced,” said WWPS Director of Health Services Amy Ruff. “Everyone should be able to access a same-day test when needed, with a quick turnaround time, enabling prompt action to be taken.”
Ruff said there is tremendous value of testing within schools. “Offering testing to students and staff can give insights into virus prevalence in the school community, reduce anxiety of returning staff and students, and bolster community access so nobody is quarantined at home unnecessarily simply because they are unable to access a test.”
“Combined with other mitigation strategies, like practicing six feet of physical distancing, using face coverings, keeping students in smaller cohorts, maximizing/improving ventilation, and practicing good hygiene and disinfection habits, testing in schools will help build confidence in safer in-person learning,” said Ruff. “Our testing program will dramatically decrease the risk to our learning community and supports our ability to continue serving students in person.”
The Learn to Return program provides free access to tests for three primary purposes:
- A same-day diagnostic test for staff or students with symptoms or possible exposure.
- Access to diagnostic PCR testing, considered to be the “gold standard” for COVID identification.
- Regular voluntary testing for school staff.
Walla Walla Public Schools plans to roll out its testing program by early March. Consent for testing will be required for all students, and will be available online and at each school.