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Many schools and districts recently requested BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 tests to save time and effort — but for some, it would require more time and effort.
The Jefferson City School District, Blair Oaks R-2 School District and Helias Catholic High School did not apply for the rapid tests.
The Trump administration announced Monday it would be sending 1.84 million Abbott BinaxNOW rapid tests to Missouri, to be distributed at the discretion of Gov. Mike Parson.
The White House's news release noted the state planned to give 60 percent of the tests to schools, 30 percent to higher education institutions and 10 percent to state priorities.
JC Schools Health Services Director Chad Sooter, Blair Oaks Superintendent Jim Jones and Helias Communications Director Sandy Hentges each said the schools chose not to apply for the tests because the current testing procedures are adequate, it would add unnecessary extra responsibilities for staff members, and it would go against their COVID-19 safety procedures.
"At this time, we are finding that the availability of testing and the services being offered by our local medical providers is satisfactory to meet our testing needs," Sooter said.
Providing the tests on site at these schools would conflict with their COVID-19 safety procedures, which strongly discourage staff and students who are feeling sick from coming to school. To be tested, the individual must be experiencing symptoms.
At JC Schools, each building has thermal temperature scanners that screen for anyone with an elevated temperature who enters the buildings. If a student or staff member is found to have an elevated temperature, they are screened further. If it is determined they're exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, they are sent home immediately.
"Providing the tests on site would pull our school nurse personnel away from providing services to students, so there was a staffing consideration as well," Sooter said.
Hentges said Helias' school nurse would not have time to administer the tests.
"We just didn't feel like it was a good fit for our school," Hentges said.
Blair Oaks administration considered requesting rapid tests for staff but decided not to because they didn't want to add more staff responsibilities than necessary.
"We did not feel that we needed to add this additional responsibility and potential liability on an already taxed health services staff," Jones said. "One of the things we considered is the fact that we're located in a county in an area of the state where testing is more readily available."
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provided a list Tuesday of the Missouri schools and districts that requested the rapid tests.
These Mid-Missouri school districts are among those that have applied for the rapid tests: Cole County R-1 in Russellville, Cole County R-5 in Eugene, Columbia, Eldon R-1, Osage County R-2 in Linn, Osage County R-3 (Fatima) in Westphalia, Fulton, Maries County R-1 in Vienna, Miller County R-3 in Tuscumbia, Moniteau County R-1 in California, Morgan County R-1 and R-2 in Stover and Versailles, New Bloomfield R-3, South Callaway R-2 in Mokane and Tipton R-6.
Four parochial schools under the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City also applied for the tests: St. Joseph Cathedral School in Jefferson City, Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School in Columbia, Sacred Heart School in Sedalia and St. Joseph School in Westphalia, said Erin Vader, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese.
The Russellville and Eugene school districts are partnering with their health insurance providers to provide the tests to their staff at clinics in Jefferson City. These districts did not request tests for students.
Staff members in these districts who have COVID-19 symptoms will have the option for a rapid test. Cole County R-5 Superintendent Dawna Burrow said the district applied for the rapid tests to save time and effort. Some staff members have waited up to six hours to receive a test then waited three days for the results, she said.
"It's very time-consuming for our employees, and then, basically, we don't find out until a couple of days later," she said. "Meanwhile, they've been in quarantine, we've gotten a sub, and then they may get a negative test, so it's a waste of time for them, and it's a waste of effort for us as well."
The rapid tests will allow employees to receive results quickly so they know whether they can return to work. Cole County R-1 Superintendent Perry Gorrell said the rapid tests will allow the district to make quicker decisions.
"You have to wait a couple days sometimes because the test results haven't come back in," he said. "The rapid tests will give us within 15 minutes, and we can start making decisions from there."