Rapid COVID-19 testing begins at Calgary school as part of pilot project

A school in northeast Calgary began offering rapid COVID-19 testing on Thursday as part of a provincial pilot project.

The pilot, announced on March 11, will see temporary rapid testing availability set up at schools experiencing outbreaks.

Tests, which are optional, are only for students and staff who aren’t experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Students who wish to take part in the program must have a signed consent form from their legal guardian.

Click to play video: 'Two Calgary schools included in COVID-19 rapid testing pilot project' Two Calgary schools included in COVID-19 rapid testing pilot project

Two Calgary schools included in COVID-19 rapid testing pilot project

The testing at Rundle School, a K-6 school within the Calgary Board of Education, began on Thursday and testing at St. John XXIII, a K-9 within the Calgary Catholic School District, will start on Monday.

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As of Thursday, the province’s website indicated there were five to nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Rundle School and over 10 at St. John XXIII.

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the province is using the pilot to determine if rapid testing is an effective way of managing outbreaks.

“Rapid tests may detect the virus in people who don’t have symptoms quickly, allowing them to immediately isolate and limit the spread of COVID-19,” LaGrange said in a tweet.

“When a school is selected it does not mean the school is unsafe for students and staff. Screening in outbreak situations can be another preventative layer in addition to the measures already in place at schools.”

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta expands rapid testing to schools, oil and gas, meat-packing plants

LaGrange said a “variety of factors” will go into selecting which schools will see the rapid tests as the pilot continues, including if the school has enough space for a testing team, its level of community spread and if there has been in-school transmission.

More than 100,000 kits will be made available during the course of the pilot program.

CCSD Superintendent of Learning Services Andrea Holowka said students who participate in the program will head back to class after their tests.

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“Then there is an off-site location very close to the school where the testing will actually occur,” Holowka said. “Within the hour, the student or staff who are tested – if they are positive – would be coming to the office and them or their family would receive information about the positive result.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta expands COVID-19 rapid testing program to schools, oil and gas, meat-packing plants' Alberta expands COVID-19 rapid testing program to schools, oil and gas, meat-packing plants

Alberta expands COVID-19 rapid testing program to schools, oil and gas, meat-packing plants

When announcing the pilot, the province said students and staff who get a positive result after a rapid test will not be able to return to class and will isolate.

“Positive results from rapid tests are considered preliminary and must be confirmed with an additional PCR test at an Alberta Health Services assessment centre.”

Holowka described the pilot program as “another added measure” the CCSD can use to “help students and staff remain safe.”

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The province will use the results of the first three weeks of the pilot program to determine how to move ahead, and if it should be expanded to include more schools and regions in the weeks ahead.

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