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COVID testing provided at no cost to SAISD students

COVID testingIn a typical school year, student-athletes do everything together. They practice together. They eat lunch together. They ride the bus together. And this year, they take COVID-19 tests together. On Tuesday, athletes at Highlands High School were the first students in San Antonio ISD to have the opportunity to be tested for COVID-19, right in their school's gym. As highlighted last week in the superintendent's letter, the testing was part of a limited pilot beginning with students who participate in extracurricular activities such as varsity athletics, fine arts, and JROTC.


"It was pretty easy; I like how they went through it," said Joshua Cooper, Highlands senior who plays wide receiver on the football team. "They have all of our coaches do it, and it is just easier to have us do it ourselves and not have someone doing it for us. It gives me a relief that I know that me, my teammates, and my coaches are getting tested, and we know that everyone is safe for game day and practices."


The rapid tests, which show results in less than 15 minutes, were provided to SAISD by the Texas Education Agency as part of a collaboration between the two educational entities to mitigate COVID-19 in the San Antonio community. Representatives from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Department of Emergency Services were on hand to help guide the test administration. 


"I was really surprised how fast it went this morning testing the girls' volleyball team," said Angie Gutierrez, family community health agent with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Bexar County. "It's a collaborative effort, everyone working together."


According to public health officials, COVID-19 testing – particularly of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals – is key to interrupting the disease by quickly identifying cases, quick treatment for reduced severity of infection, and immediate isolation to avoid spread. 


"Testing is an additional layer of assurance beyond the social distancing measures and the four levels of the safety matrix that guides our re-opening plans, in which we currently are in the Yellow phase until positivity rates are below 5% for two consecutive weeks," said Todd Howey, senior executive director of SAISD Athletics in a recent letter sent to parents. 


Students in athletics, fine arts, and JROTC will be provided testing before participating in competitive or extracurricular activities, with parental consent. If refused, students may continue to participate in the class and in practice, but they may not participate in the game or competition. A student's grade will not be negatively affected by refusal to participate in the testing pilot. 


"We are starting with these targeted high school groups because it is less straightforward to maintain social distancing and masking protocols during some types of competitive events," continued Howey in the parent letter. "The tests will give us another level of assurance that we are limiting the risk of exposure during extracurricular activities as much as we possibly can without holding students back from participation."


During the week of Nov. 2, SAISD began administering the rapid tests to the following students:

  • Varsity athletes in football, volleyball and basketball. In advance of competitive play, athletes in football will be tested once weekly on Saturdays; those in volleyball and basketball will be tested on Mondays; and Wednesdays are make-up testing days. 
  • Fine arts students in band, dance, cheer and pep squad who participate at varsity games. Prior to game-day participation, students will be tested once weekly on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are make-up testing days.
  • JROTC students will be tested on Wednesdays prior to future competitions.


Testing will be provided for asymptomatic students, and positive results, if any, will be addressed following Metro Health protocols. It is important to note that there is the potential for false negatives. The District will continue to require social distancing and mask guidelines in all educational settings, including classrooms, cafeterias, libraries, and labs.


"Number one, I am happy for our kids; they are going to be safe," said Chris Castillo, Highlands' head football coach. "At least us being together now, knowing that we are COVID-free, I feel really confident about that, really excited about that. This is different than anything I have ever done in my life. I didn't come to coach and be the COVID guy, but if it helps our kids play football and plays sports, I am all in. It's been a really neat learning experience." 


SAISD is actively advocating for additional testing for the District’s broader community, and if it becomes available, the District will notify all staff and students to the opportunity.

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