August 30, 2021
Dear Families and Students,
We wanted to provide you with an update on our plans for weekly COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students and staff, known as “screening” testing.
Thanks to the Oregon Health Authority, we plan to support free weekly COVID-19 screening testing to PPS students and unvaccinated staff. Screening testing is for individuals who are not showing symptoms and do not have a known exposure to COVID-19.
PPS is ready to provide this screening testing option to your students. However, the Oregon Health Authority has yet to provide the complete details of this screening option.
Here is what we do know:
- Unvaccinated staff who are enrolled in this regular screening testing will be sent test kits to their homes. They will administer the test in their home and mail it in. They will receive the results within 24 hours.
- Students whose families sign a consent for testing (17 years and under) will be provided the screening kit to bring home one time per week. The following morning, the family will administer the test and send it to school with their child. Collection sites will be at each school. A courier from the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), who is administering the program, will pick up the kits on specific days for each school. Families will receive the results within 24 hours.
- OHA and OHSU will first focus on students in grades K-5 for PPS, since there is no vaccine for this age group at this time. As they build their testing capacity, they will increase the number of tests they can run daily.
- For both students and staff, if a positive result is received, families and/or staff will be asked to contact their school. This will help us limit exposure and begin the process for contact tracing and quarantine.
- PPS will also receive confirmation of a positive result from the Multnomah County Health Department who will begin the process for contact tracing and quarantining.
We will continue to offer symptomatic/diagnostic testing in each school, as we have done since March, to students and staff who display symptoms of COVID-19 during the school day. Public health experts agree that these rapid tests are more important to strengthening our effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as it will determine in short order whether someone has COVID-19. We will follow the quarantining process immediately.
We eagerly wait for more information from the Oregon Health Authority, and they have informed us that they plan to have more information to share with PPS families within the next few days. In the meantime, we will continue to follow the additional layers of our health and safety measures, will offer testing for students or staff who display symptoms during the school day and will follow all guidance from our local health experts.
Why is COVID-19 Testing Important?
We know that regular testing, in addition to COVID-19 vaccination, is a safe, effective way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help keep schools open for in-person learning.
Many people with COVID-19, including children and teens, don’t have symptoms but can still spread the virus, so regular testing helps find people who have the virus before it can spread to others. However, it is important to note that testing itself does not prevent the spread of infection.
Finding who has the virus early means steps can be taken to prevent COVID-19 from spreading and causing an outbreak, so schools can stay open. Regular testing also means parents or guardians get notified if their child tests positive, allowing them to plan for treatment and take steps to protect the rest of the family from COVID-19.
Regular COVID-19 testing, in addition to each layer of safety we’ve planned for in our schools, works together. We know that the combination of our layered safety measures helps to better ensure a healthy learning environment. We’ve upgraded our air filters to MERV 13 standards across every school, and will have HEPA filters in every classroom. And we know that it will take all of us doing our part, wearing our masks, washing our hands, and getting a vaccine shot when eligible, to keep ourselves and each other safe.
We hope this latest information is helpful. We will be sure to share further updates as they happen in the dynamic situation that continues as we begin the school year.
Thank you for your support and understanding.