May 20, 2024

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Kelly admin is pushing COVID-19 testing, vaccines in schools

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The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is urging school districts to plan for the upcoming school year by pledging to spend millions on COVID-19 testing and vaccination resources in school buildings.

The department received $74 million in funding to be used for COVID-19 testing in pre-K-12 schools.

“KDHE will provide project specialists to provide hands-on support for each school district in the development of their budgets and implementation plans,” a K-12 COVID-19 testing and vaccine options memo on the funding reads.

According to the memo, KDHE worked with an advisory group that included superintendents, teachers, staff, school nurses, and others to design three different testing strategies and one vaccine plan for school districts to consider. Schools are not required to adopt any of KDHE’s proposed strategies for testing and vaccinations.

Louisburg rejects federal handout for COVID-19 testing, vaccination

Louisburg, for instance, declined to participate, said Doug Shane, a school board member at USD 416.

“We decided as a district we would decline those funds and that we were not going to offer diagnostic testing, and we were not going to administer the vaccine,” Shane said.

One of KDHE’s strategies recommends providing rapid COVID-19, strep and rapid flu testing to symptomatic students and staff onsite. Another recommends school-provided COVID testing for students and staff who are potentially exposed to COVID-19 or who ask for a test. Another suggests providing one-time PCR or antigen testing within three days of the start of school and before and after returning from school breaks. 

Another set of KDHE proposals recommends school districts test susceptible close contacts daily during quarantine periods and allowing those students to continue with in-person learning if negative. Another strategy suggests testing susceptible close contacts who are in quarantine after a shortened quarantine if they test negative on or after day 6 of quarantine, and another recommends testing an entire classroom regularly if there is a transmission outbreak.

A third set of proposals suggests testing participants in extracurricular activities once or twice a week or implementing testing for one-time events like graduations and dances if the county experiences a two-week cumulative incidence rate of more than 151 cases. The memo suggests extending the testing to spectators when COVID incidence rates creep higher than 151 over a two-week period.

Strategy offers recommendations for providing school vaccine clinics

KDHE’s vaccination proposals include potentially providing district-wide vaccine clinics in schools, using district events like walk-in enrollment to simultaneously host vaccination clinics, and combining vaccine administration clinics with other school-related activities.

Shane said Louisburg turned down the KDHE handouts for testing and vaccinations because schools are educational institutions, not medical providers. 

“When students go to the nurse, we might send them home or to a doctor for additional care,” he said. “It’s never been, oh, well, we’re going to provide a diagnosis. We’re more than happy to help people figure out how to get a test or a vaccine, but we’re not going to offer them through the school.”

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