About 15,000 COVID-19 in-home test kits were distributed to West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) students on Sunday in advance of Monday’s return to school from the winter break, the district announced.
More than 5,000 cars lined up at drive-through locations at Kennedy High and Pinole Valley High to receive the free kits, which were distributed by district staff and volunteers as officials prepare amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. Additional test kits from the drive-through event will be distributed to school sites as a one-time resource, the district said.
In addition, starting today the district will open three additional testing sites available to all students and staff district-wide, including at the Alvarado Adult School in Richmond, the Ohlone Elementary School campus in Hercules, and the district central office in Richmond. These sites are intended for students and staff who have had a positive COVID-19 test at home.
“Regular weekly testing and athletic testing are still available at school sites,” the district added. “Families do not have to make an appointment to receive regular or athletic weekly tests.”
The district said it recently received 28,000 in-home test kits from the Contra Costa County Office of Education through the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). District staff worked with the teachers union to develop a swift distribution plan.
“With a spike in cases in the country surrounding the omicron variant and the scarcity of in-home tests in stores, the rapid spread of the virus required an aggressive response to ensure safety in our school communities,” Superintendent Kenneth Chris Hurst said.
Marissa Glidden, president of the United Teachers of Richmond (UTR), thanked the union’s members for volunteering to make the distribution possible.
“Testing is a crucial part of keeping our schools safe,” Glidden said.
Increasing testing availability is among several steps the district said it is taking in response to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. For the rest of January, staff has been asked to hold virtual meetings instead of in-person meetings, including parent-teacher conferences, Hurst said. The district is also examining its COVID-19 safety practices to ensure they’re up to date with the current and evolving public health guidance, the superintendent added.
Last month, the WCCUSD Board of Education pushed back the mandated vaccination deadline for students ages 12 years and older from Jan. 3 to Feb. 18. At the time, district data showed that less than half of students facing the requirement had been confirmed as fully vaccinated, far too many for the district’s Virtual Academy (independent study) to handle.
Hurst urged eligible students to get vaccinated.
“Experts remind us that the best way to protect everyone against the virus is to get vaccinated,” he said, adding that the WCCUSD will continue offering COVID-19 vaccination clinics at certain school sites in partnership with Contra Costa Health Services.