Walla Walla Public Schools bring voluntary COVID-19 testing to campuses

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – In an effort to keep schools open and safe, Walla Walla Public Schools have started to implement COVID-19 testing on campus.

“So fun to see the excitement and the happiness in the joy that they feel being back together,” Amy Ruff the Director of Health for the district said.

Ruff said they want that excitement of being back in the classroom, to continue. Which is one of the reasons they’ve joined Washington state’s COVID-19 testing in schools program.

“Some did great with online learning and others, it just hasn’t been a great vehicle for them, and so this enables us to keep more kids in school every single day,” Ruff said.

Each campus throughout the school district has two types of tests.

Staff and students can choose to be tested if they’re worried about exposure of showing symptoms of COVID-19.

“Both a rapid antigen test which takes 15 minutes and is done by a simple nasal swab, and the PCR test which is done by a saliva test and takes about 48 hours to get those results; we send those out,” Ruff explained they’re using Curative Testing for the PCR.

Ruff said these tests are completely voluntary and will be administered by designated staff members.

“With my health staff, my nurses and my health room assistants trained to administer the tests, and document the results. We’ll have consent forms that have to be in place, HIPAA privacy protection for both staff and students, anyone who’s being tested,” she said.

Right now, elementary and middle schoolers are back in class on AM/PM hybrid models. High schoolers will return March 8th, on a similar hybrid schedule.

READ MORE: Pasco School District to be a part of COVID-19 school testing program

Ruff hopes the testing along with other mitigation measures will help keep their schools open and safe.

“Just gives us one more way to combat this virus and keep our kids in school,” she said.

Pasco School District is also a part of this state testing program.

Shane Edinger with the district said they haven’t implemented the program yet but they do have a plan in place.

Students and staff will be able to voluntarily get tested on any of the school’s campus with the PCR cheek swab. Edinger said it will be self-administered but monitored by a designated staff member.

There is no cost to get tested at any of these state-sponsored school testing sites, and the test results are private. The only exception is if a student or staff tests positive, the results are shared with the district’s health officer; the district does not have access to the individual’s health information.