The Thames Valley district school board has begun planning to start voluntary COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students and staff at the board’s schools.
“We’re working with partners to develop criteria and a timeline for voluntary diagnostic testing of our students and staff,” Mark Fisher, the board’s director of education, said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Fisher said more information about the testing, as well as consent forms for children, will be released as the plans to begin testing at specific schools take shape.
“The Ministry of Education has mandated school boards make available targeted, voluntary, asymptomatic testing for two per cent of in-person students in elementary and secondary schools each week,” the board said in its statement.
“Testing is voluntary and consent will be required for asymptomatic students and staff only,” the board said.
Local public health units will help with selecting the schools, the board said. The testing also is expected to include children and staff from child-care centres located inside schools.
At the beginning of February, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced access to targeted, asymptomatic testing of students and staff would be paid for with $381 million in federal cash.
That new funding means about $7.6 million for the Thames Valley District school board.
At the time, government officials said Ontario will have the capacity to complete 25,000 lab tests, and 25,000 antigen rapid tests a week, but could not say how long it would take to reach those numbers.
“Household members of students and staff, and anyone with symptoms, should seek testing at an assessment centre,” the board said.
Contact tracing involving confirmed COVID-19 cases will be handled by local health units, as is the case now.
The Thames Valley board also said it’s pleased the government has made voluntary testing at pharmacies available for asymptomatic school staff as of Friday.
Critics have called for widespread asymptomatic testing, saying it should have begun when schools opened last fall. The government had promised and set money aside to test asymptomatic high schoolers, but the program never went ahead.