Katy ISD is now offering free COVID-19 screenings to all students of the district, said KISD Director of Risk Management Lance Nauman. The Food and Drug Administration-approved saliva-based test is …
Katy ISD is now offering free COVID-19 screenings to all students of the district, said KISD Director of Risk Management Lance Nauman. The Food and Drug Administration-approved saliva-based test is being offered at no cost to students through a cooperative effort with the Texas Education Agency.
“I made the application (the week of Nov. 2) and then we picked up our tests, the masks, the gloves – all the (personal protective equipment) that goes with it – provided by the state – yesterday,” Nauman said in a Nov. 5 interview.
The improved access to testing will help the district monitor and mitigate the spread of the disease in the district, Nauman said. Because the testing is free, it increases ease of access for families that are facing tough financial times and with those students getting tested, the district will have a clearer picture of how serious the spread of the novel coronavirus is among the student body. Nauman said the district has received 18,000 tests and that, once the supply runs below a certain level, the TEA will provide additional kits, so he is not concerned about running out of supplies at this time.
“I think the increased testing allows us to mitigate from an even stronger position and keep campuses open,” Nauman said. “There are going to be circumstances where there are going to be spikes, but because we’re so actively engaged, it allows us to control things on campus.”
The new tests use a saliva sample to determine if the student being tested is positive for the novel coronavirus, Nauman said. However, if the student’s parents would like, a nasal swab test is available. However, the nasal swab test does have a cost of $125 associated with it. Test results for the saliva-based test are rapid and usually provided in minutes, he said.
Staff have already had access to testing since before the fall semester began, Nauman said.
Testing for both students and staff is being conducted at the district’s Gerald D. young Agricultural Sciences Center at 5801 Katy Hockley Cut Off Road just north of downtown Katy. The testing center is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Appointments are not necessary, but those needing more information may call 281-396-7808. Nauman said the facility’s location keeps those getting tested from having to interact with school campus populations.
Keeping campuses safe is the primary concern, Nauman said. With recent temporary closures of Seven Lakes High School and Nottingham Country Elementary School, the district is working hard to minimize the number of campus closures. Having a solid idea of the number of infected students and staff at each location can greatly assist the district in making decisions to keep campuses open, or shut them down, Nauman said.
Making those determinations is a group effort, Nauman said. While the district understands the inconvenience of closing campuses, even temporarily, student safety is the district’s priority. When COVID-19 cases begin to climb at a given campus, a team comes together at the district level to determine the best course of action. Each campus’ situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the team makes a call based on that campus’ needs and challenges.
“There’s not a cookie cutter percentage,” Nauman said. “We have to look at, ‘Is it a program issue?’ and with each – elementary, junior high and high school – there’s all different sets of circumstances that could guide those numbers.”
Once an evaluation is made, the committee makes a decision, Nauman said. Each campus has different factors such as the number of students, number of staff, types of programs and other factors that play into that decision, so one-size-fits-all policies don’t help with decision making.
Seven Lakes High School was closed from Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 after reaching 48 cases of COVID-19 between students and staff. The campus reopened Nov. 4. A statement from the district indicated that students socializing without practicing social distancing or wearing masks was the likely cause of the spike in cases. As of Nov. 9, cases had reduced to 30 among staff and students.
Nottingham Country was closed Nov. 5 through Nov. 9 with classes set to restart Nov. 10 after the district reported via its online COVID-19 dashboard that 17 students and five staff had COVID-19. No suspected cause for the spike was announced. One additional case among staff had been identified as of the afternoon of Nov. 9.
As of Monday at 2:13 p.m., the district shows a total of 603 cases since Aug. 19. Of those, 220 are active with 148 of the 220 being face-to-face students, 10 among those attending Katy Virtual Academy and 62 cases among staff. The largest portion of cases are associated with high school campuses.
Campus closures are not taken lightly, Nauman said.
“This is not ‘turn on a dime.’ We have thought it through very carefully, as best we can, based on the best information we have and all the conflicting information. The parents should know and the community should know that we’re doing the very best (we can) and we’re dedicated day in and day out for the students and the staff and we all need to be responsible – stress ‘we all’ – need to be responsible in our actions.”