GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA)– South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and Greenville County Schools are showing off a unique COVID-19 testing program, that will help kids and educators in K-12.
Spearman toured a testing site at Fountain Inn High School on Tuesday morning.
“We’re here to celebrate another tool that is available to help us to be sure that we can have children back in school face-to-face with their teachers and their principals, in the best possibility, safest climate that they can be in,” Spearman said.
Greenville County Schools has partnered with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), and MAKO Medical for PCR testing.
“We have partnered with MAKO Medical for PCR testing for our staff and students exclusively. We have three different sites throughout the district. One in the north, one in the central, and one in the southern district. And that is open all day, everyday, shorten hours on the weekend. PCR testing, again exclusively for our school district,” said Janet Lage, Director of Medical Health Services for Greenville County Schools.
“MAKO, they are handling all of the logistics and the day-to-day operation of the site, which takes the burden off our of educators who need to be focused on instructing our students and getting them back into the classroom as quickly as possible,” Spearman said.
District representatives said it’s a unique option that not all students in the state have. The option can now trim a student’s time in quarantine.
“It cuts quarantine time by 30 percent,” said Dr. W. Burke Royster, Superintendent for Greenville County Schools.
MAKO Medical said results are expected to be ready in 24 hours.
“All results are within the next day. I think it’s been a huge benefit; we’re doing a lot of back to early from quarantine,” said Nolan McBride, Vice-President for MAKO Medical.
Typically, a student in the district, is in quarantine for 10 days, and returns back to class on day 11. Now, after seven days in quarantine, a student can return sooner, if they have a negative test.
“We adopted a 10-day quarantine for students, seven day for our staff. Now we have the staff and the capability and the partnership with MAKO, to allow for our students to return on day eight after testing no sooner than day five, and return on day eight,” Lage said.
“One of our greatest concerns, was dealing with all issues around the pandemic, is the amount of lost time that students experience from class, and this is another tool to help us reduce that amount of lost time while still focusing on the health and safety of our students, our employees, and our community,” Dr. Royster said.
District representatives said 5,400 students are eligible to return from quarantine early, but only 1,700 of those have utilized this opportunity.
“We’ve had about 5,400 students eligible for early return to school from quarantine, and we’ve had about 1,700 students actual test and return early,” Lage said.
“We want to encourage more people to take advantage of this. Only about 30 percent of our students who are eligible to go through this site, i.e. 30 percent of those in quarantine are taking advantage of coming through,” Dr. Royster said. “So, if we want to make sure that our students get back in school quicker, than to our community, to our parents, we highly encourage you to bring your student, to bring your child through the testing, any of the three sites. Let’s see if we can get them back in school quicker.”
Spearman said she hopes other districts will utilize one of the state’s testing programs.
“DHEC has three different testing programs available to school districts throughout the state. One of them is our rapid testing program, where we provide two different types of rapid test that school nurses or medical professionals can use on site,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, Director of Public Health for DHEC.
“We have this program, which is the vendor based testing, which is what we call a turn-key program,” Dr. Traxler said. “By having this access for anybody associated with the school district, it can allow them to get that answer very quickly and then contact tracing then to occur, as Dr. Royster said in a very timely manner. So that people who need to quarantine do so quickly.”
Currently, Greenville County Schools has the sites set up at Northside Park, M.T. Anderson District Support Center, and Fountain Inn High School. Dr. Traxler said the funding is being provided through DHEC with federal grants.