DENVER — Several hundred schools across Colorado are in the process of opting in to the state's new COVID-19 weekly screening at schools.
This is a new program launched by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). It's set to launch next week in an effort to keep students in classrooms by helping them keep track of COVID cases.
"This school testing program is a key way to identify cases early. Stop the spread before it can grow and become a large outbreak in the school,” CDPHE COVID-19 incident commander Scott Bookman said.
This comes as Colorado health officials reveal data showing hospitalizations aren't on the rise among kids, but cases are rising at an alarming rate. For CDPHE, this is another way to minimize disruptions in the classroom and track the spread on a weekly basis by providing antigen tests.
"The weekly cadence of the program allows schools and districts to have a more proactive monitoring on the amount of disease spread happening within the schools,” CPDHE Branch Chief of COVID Community Testing & Vendor Partnership Sarah Hamma said.
Hamma said this is a voluntary process that begins with superintendents or districts making the decision to opt in.
Schools can choose either a full-service model where vendors are contracted and provide everything, or a direct ship model where supplies are provided but the school or district is required to provide the people to run the program.
"Parents can opt in and out at any time of the program, and this happens on a continuous basis,” Hamma said.
Twenty-two districts have opted in already, and 156 in Colorado haven’t participated yet. A total of 447 schools have opted in, and 80 are fully enrolled and working with their vendor to begin testing on September 7.
“We have some theories that there are some other programs available within the state that aren't state-funded. So, school districts may be utilizing some of those programs,” Hamma said.
That's the case in Aurora Public Schools, which has a partnership with COVID Check Colorado where students and staff can get tested for free.
The following districts are participating in the CDPHE program:
- Charter School Institute (CSI)
- Adams County School District 14
- Centennial School District R-1
- Center School District 26-JT
- Garfield School District RE-2
- Greeley School District 6
- Gunnison Watershed School District RE-1J
- Ignacio School District 11-JT
- Lamar School District RE-2
- Mancos School District RE-6
- Mapleton School District 1
- Moffat Consolidated School District 2
- Moffat County School District RE-1
- Monte Vista School District C-8
- Park County School District RE-2
- Plateau Valley School District 50
- Poudre School District R-1
- Ridgway School District R-2
- Steamboat Springs School District RE-2
- Swink School District 33
- Weld County School District RE-1
Jefferson County Public Schools has also indicated interest, so CDPHE is working through possible implementation options with the district.
CDPHE said they have scheduled informational meetings with school districts and schools over the next few weeks, and they believe many more schools will sign up.
State health officials said Denver Public Schools (DPS) has not opted in just yet. 9NEWS reached out to DPS to see if it would be enrolling, but we have not yet heard back.
Over the summer, health experts started to see an increase in cases among children due to the delta variant. They say the next two weeks will be important to see if the transmission is happening in or out of classrooms.
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