Poudre School District isn’t using Colorado’s COVID-19 test program for staff. Here’s why.

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Access to COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for educators has been a concern throughout the pandemic.

On Jan. 29, Gov. Jared Polis announced that pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade educators in Colorado will begin to receive COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday, with first doses completed by Feb. 28. He also announced that the state would begin delivering at-home, rapid-result testing to educators.

On Feb. 1, Polis hand-delivered rapid tests to teachers in Arvada, Fountain, Parker and Pueblo. Tests through the state’s program are available to teachers, staff and some students with symptoms, those who have been exposed to COVID-19 and asymptomatic people who need to be screened, according to the state.

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A Poudre School District nurse conducts a rapid-result COVID-19 test at Poudre High School, home to the district's new testing site.

But Poudre School District has opted out of the state’s at-home testing program, for now, and is instead forging ahead with its own rapid-result testing.

On Jan. 27, PSD opened a drive-thru testing site in the west parking lot at Poudre High School. The site is a partnership with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. The county provides the tests and has trained school nurses on the proper way to conduct the tests and use protective equipment. 

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Currently, testing at the site is available only to symptomatic district employees, though district spokesperson Madeline Noblett said the district is considering expanding testing to symptomatic students. 

Because testing at the site is available only to people with symptoms, a negative result does not mean employees can head back to work right away. Noblett said even if someone tests negative, their symptoms must be resolved before they can return to work in person.

To get tested, staff must pre-register and wear a mask to the site. The site is open from 9 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

As of Feb. 5, 49 district employees have been tested at the site, said Noblett, who added that testing numbers have steadily increased since the site’s opening. The site sees about 15 people a day. 

“One of the goals of having this site open is to be able to bring the employees back to work as quickly and as safely as possible,” Noblett said. 

The district’s on-site testing allows for faster tracking of results within PSD and Larimer County’s health department than they expect the state’s program would, Noblett said. 

Testing at Poudre High School, which uses the same BinaxNOW rapid-result tests as the state program, allows for results to be shared directly with the health department’s tracking system, the person tested and their department or school within PSD in approximately 15 minutes, according to the district. 

Results from the state’s testing program, Noblett said, might take a longer time to get to the district and health department as the test is conducted at individuals’ homes and results are not automatically provided to the county or district.

Noblett said the district has identified Fort Collins High School as a potential site to launch a second testing operation if the need presents itself. The district is not currently planning to expand as it is able to keep up with demand at the Poudre High School site.

Noblett said the district may opt in to the state testing program in the future.

“Things change every day in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we’d never want to rule out any options that are out there,” said Noblett. 

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at mbohannon@coloradoan.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.