CENTREVILLE — Queen Anne’s County Public Schools (QACPS) will be introducing COVID-19 testing both directly in its facilities and in two upcoming clinics throughout the county.
“Providing testing at the school level is a huge advantage as our main goal is to keep students in school,” said Superintendent Dr. Patricia Saelens.
“We can rule out positive cases and keep the students in school without a disruption to learning,” she added.
Designed to mitigate the number of students required to quarantine in the event of a positive COVID-19 case, the “test and stay” plan is the product of a joint collaboration between QACPS, MAKO Medical Laboratories, and the Maryland Department of Health.
One half of the strategy includes conducting rapid tests in schools, something nurses not only have the capability of doing themselves, but training other members of the staff to administer as well. The kits, provided for free by the Maryland Department of Health, will be distributed to the schools based on need, according to QACPS Communication Specialist Lanette Power-Waters.
Results for the rapid test, Binax Now by Abbott, are available around 15 minutes after administration. During that time, students will remain in a designated quarantine area inside their school nurse’s office. If their test results are negative, they may return to class.
This process, however, will not replace the close contact system QACPS has operated under this school year, as students who are identified as being in close contact with a COVID-positive person will still be required to follow the county and state’s quarantine guidelines.
The other half of the plan involves the implementation of two testing clinics operated by MAKO. Located at each of the county’s high schools, the clinics’ hours of operation will be based on need, as well as estimated testing volume. Though the sites “are still in the planning stages,” according to Power-Waters, the clinics will provide rapid and PCR tests.
With no official start date, the school system spokesperson also said that the establishing and training processes for the clinics will begin once the county’s contract with MAKO has been confirmed.
To participate in either testing method, parents must provide consent through a MAKO COQUI platform that will be available through the schools’ and the board of education’s websites. Described as a “centralized” registration platform by Supervisor of Student Support Matt Evans, the site will allow QACPS to monitor the system’s positivity rates and keep track of staff and student testing.
During the Board of Education’s Oct. 6 meeting, QACPS officials pronounced their hope and anticipation to start these testing programs within the next two weeks.
“I’d like to get that sent out to people and our students and families as soon as possible,” Board of Education President Richard Smith said. “Kids need to be in school, and being out for seven to 10 days is not good.”