ST. LOUIS – Some St. Louis area school districts believe it’s been a key to keeping healthy students in classrooms. A state program providing COVID rapid testing kits has allowed districts to test consenting students and staff.
“It helps us test them on the spot, said Julie Tadros, Kirkwood School District lead nurse. “There’s no waiting and there’s no charge to families or staff.”
The district’s superintendent, David Ulrich, believes having results quickly helped the district maintain its goal of maximizing in-person learning. The district is now looking for ways to find more kits because the state no longer has enough to meet school districts’ demands.
Kirkwood requested 1,300 kits from the state but received 80. A spokesperson for the Rockwood School District reports receiving about one-third of the kits requested.
Parkway School District said through a statement, “The lack of tests has been a concern. It could delay the return to school for staff and students. Parkway applied for free tests from the state but unfortunately, there are none available at this time. We are on a waitlist.”
Ulrich said, “We’re no longer able to test students,” but the district does have enough kits to test symptomatic staff members wanting to be tested.
“We’re in a situation where there is a shortage of rapid tests not only in the region but all across the state,” he said.
State officials say a spike in demand led to the manufacturer being unable to fill orders.
“This is going to be a real challenge for schools that have relied on this resource,” said Mallory McGowin, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s chief communications officer.
“We will let schools know just as soon as we get word from the manufacturer that we are going to be receiving new tests and get this program back up and running as quickly as we can.”
For now, it’s not clear when that will be.
Ulrich said the district will be looking each day for ways to find available rapid tests. The state is making saliva-based PCR testing available to districts. School districts say those tests are not ideal because the results are not immediate. They are available within 48 hours.
For more details about the information state officials have shared, visit the DESE website.