Milford School District approves voluntary COVID rapid testing option

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Milford School District voted Monday, September 20 to approve the use of COVID rapid testing for students and staff. The testing is free, and parents would be required to give consent for their child to be tested. Children whose parents signed them up for the program would be tested weekly or bi-weekly in an effort to identify asymptomatic students.

“Should a child test positive, they would then be required to take the PCR test which is more accurate,” Dr. Jason Peel, Director of Human Resources and School Climate, said. “If those results are positive, they would be out the recommended amount of time.”

Questions arose about the accuracy of the test and what would happen if there were false positives.

“This is optional, no one is required to do this,” Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent, said. “If there is a positive, they are required to take the PCR test. This is actually something our parents have asked for and it is a way to be proactive.”

Dr. Peel explained that the tests would be performed by an outside company and not by the school nurses.

“This will not be an on-demand test,” Dr. Peel said. “They will not just go to the nurse’s office for a test. It would be organized with a specific time they would receive the test.” Dr. Peel explained that the head school nurse, Yvonne White, had been involved in the discussion and had not expressed any concerns about the testing.

According to a flyer that will be sent to parents that was provided by the state, the district and Department of Public Health would collect basic identifying information about the student with a consent form that would be submitted online in a confidential manner. Results of the test could be available as quickly as 15 minutes after the child takes it and will be submitted to the student’s school, their parents as well as required local, state and federal agencies. If the test is positive, a parent will need to pick the child up from school as the will not be able to return to class or ride the bus. An additional PCR test will be given and parents as well as the school will be notified of those results, usually within three days. The test does issue false positive and negative results. If a child has a negative test and no symptoms, they will be able to return to class. Parents will be notified each time their child is tested with notification sent home with the child. If the test is positive, parents will receive a phone call.

“These tests are better than the at-home test people are using,” Dr. Dickerson said. “We think this would be good for our families. We don’t have the exact number of false positive or false negative percentages, but we can get those and report them to the board, and we can add them to information sent to parents.”

Board member Dr. Adam Brownstein, who is a family care physician, explained that asymptomatic students may actually show more false positives as that is how the data worked. He stated that the goal was to keep healthy students in class as much as possible, but that he did not oppose the testing process. He just wanted the board to be aware that asymptomatic students may actually show a positive result.

“I think since this is voluntary, parents will have the ultimate decision,” Board member David Vezmar said. “The district can provide a fact sheet showing the rate of false positives and parents can make their own decision.” Dr. Peel explained that the district would have to advertise the testing option and provide parents with a link where they would need to sign up, so adding that information would be simple to include.

Board member Jean Wylie pointed out that if parents have to give consent and have all the details, they should be able to make the decision.

“This is a voluntary program and parents have to give consent for this to happen,” Wylie said. “It is not something that is randomly going to happen. It has to be done with the consent of the parent. If they have any questions, the sheet tells them to talk to their doctor or to the school nurse, even if the result is negative or they don’t suspect exposure. If a parent has questions, they have the opportunity to go to a professional and ask.”

The board passed the motion unanimously.

In addition, the board approved a request to extend the state’s COVID leave extension until December 31, 2021, in keeping with the policy recently passed by the State of Delaware. The policy allows for an additional ten days for leave necessary due to COVID-19. That motion also passed unanimously.

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