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COVID-19 Testing FAQ

Have additional questions not answered below? Email [email protected] and a member of the leadership team will get back to you.

We want our students and their families to be as safe as possible. The COVID-19 Delta variant is highly contagious with case counts surging both nationally and locally. The Delta variant also has a pronounced 2-day period when many infected individuals may be asymptomatic but as contagious as symptomatic individuals with the infection. Our unvaccinated students are highly vulnerable to infection and breakthrough cases for vaccinated individuals are also becoming more common.

In addition to health and safety protocols like masking, distancing, hand hygiene, sanitation, vaccination, and others, student and employee testing in schools provides another layer of protection for our community. By identifying students or staff with cases of COVID-19 while they may still be asymptomatic, we have an opportunity to limit the spread of the disease in our classrooms and greater community, and also avoid more significant program disruptions.

Additionally, the WA Department of Health has established the following requirements for schools: “Screening testing should be offered to students who have not been fully vaccinated when community transmission is at moderate, substantial, or high levels as defined by CDC’s matrix.”

Our pooled testing program covers up to 25 individuals with a single test, so it allows for more people to be tested quickly and accurately while using fewer testing resources. Additionally, the Bertschi Safe Schools Committee is following King County Department of Health guidelines for K-12 schools related to quarantining students. As such, the entire classroom will quarantine at home for 7 days if a student or teacher in that class tests positive for COVID-19. Weekly pool testing provides the most efficient way to determine if a member of a classroom has been infected.

All students in a classroom with parental consent will test at the same time on Thursdays. Once a student has completed their test they will place their swab into a single container for the classroom (this is the “pooling” step). The container is couriered to a lab and tested as a single pool or batch.

This is a very simple self-administered test referred to as a shallow nasal swab test. Classroom teachers and administrators will instruct students to circle the inside of each nostril for 10 seconds with a short swab provided with each test kit. Our testing program will not require students to insert swabs any deeper into their noses. The staff member will observe each student from a distance to ensure they test properly. If a student has any trouble performing the test the staff member will provide additional guidance and support. Our staff will not actually administer student tests.

Yes, from conversations with school leadership at other local independent schools, we understand that most, if not all, of these schools are implementing some kind of student testing protocol. To our knowledge all of these are optional testing programs so far.

We have partnered with WA State's Learn to Return Program and Atlas Genomics to help administer our testing program.

We strongly encourage all of our families to participate in this program in order to keep our community as safe as possible. Our goal is 100% student participation. We are also conscious that some families may choose not to participate for health or other reasons. As we monitor participation rates in the coming week we will consider our options for maximizing testing on our campus.

Only the classroom testing team at the school will receive a roster of students whose family has completed the consent form. This will include the classroom teacher, the administrator assisting each classroom, Teri, and Mike Gardner as health and safety lead. Additionally, while school leadership will share overall testing participation rates for the entire school, we will not share individual classroom participation rates with parents and other staff members.

If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days they should not participate in pooled testing as they may still test positive for COVID-19. This is due to the fact that our tests are highly sensitive and may detect leftover viral particles in a student’s nose. These students are encouraged to participate in testing after this 90 days period.

Atlas provides all test results directly to the school. School leadership will then contact our families in a particular classroom if they have a positive pooled test result about quarantining and other steps. The school will also notify the entire Bertschi community that a classroom has received a positive test result. Parents may also view Concentric’s privacy statement here.

As described above, the classroom will immediately quarantine for 7 days with the whole class pivoting to remote learning. The school will then encourage families to seek individual PCR testing at a local community testing facility for each student to identify whether their child may have been infected. Additionally, Bertschi will require that every student demonstrate proof of a negative test 5 days after the start of the quarantine in order to return to campus. Any student with COVID-19 is required to quarantine for 10 days after the start of symptoms, after at least 24 hours have passed since a fever has resolved, and after symptoms have improved. If asymptomatic, a student is still required to quarantine for 10 days. For more details, see Seattle & King County Public Health COVID-19 Symptom Flow Chart.

Our pooled testing provides a result for an entire classroom, not for the individuals within it. In the case of a positive test school leadership will know that at least one student in the classroom is likely positive for COVID-19 but not the specific student. The school will ask families to individually PCR test their student either on campus or at a local community testing facility to identify whether their child may have been infected. Additionally, Bertschi will require that every student demonstrate proof of a negative test 5 days after the start of the quarantine in order to return to campus. At no time will school leadership share individual family health information with other families in their classroom without their prior consent. Families may choose to notify other families in their classroom of their own accord if their child receives a positive individual test result for COVID-19.

Susan Sidman, Bertschi’s mental health consultant, provided the following guidance for talking to elementary-aged children about testing for COVID-19:

This year at Bertschi school we are going to be checking everybody–grownups and kids–for COVID. COVID is a tiny germ that we can’t see but might be in our body. Some people who get COVID have a fever or cough and feel achy, but some people who have it may not feel sick at all. COVID is contagious which means that one person can catch it from another person. It lives in our noses and throats, which is why everybody is wearing masks. This helps to stop us from spreading the virus if we have it. Because not everybody who gets COVID feels sick but everybody who has it can be contagious, it is important to check and see who might have it in their body, even if they don’t feel bad. When we look for COVID we look in our noses because that is where it likes to hang out. We use something called a nasal swab, which is a little cotton ball on a stick that you sweep around in your nose like a broom and it looks for any bits of COVID that might be there. It feels a little strange to sweep the cotton ball in your nose, but it doesn’t hurt. Every week at school, we are going to check our noses on Thursday so we make sure that we can stop COVID from spreading at our school. If we wear masks, wash our hands, and check our noses, we can help keep our whole school healthy and safe.