sweetwater union high school district

Exploring Ways to COVID Test More Students, Faster, and Cheaper

SUHSD is exploring ways to test even more students, faster, and cheaper with a pooled testing program

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The Sweetwater Union High School District has conducted roughly 1,000 COVID-19 tests a week at its roaming rapid testing clinics since the school year began in July. Now the south county school district is exploring ways to test even more students, faster, and cheaper.

“We are experimenting with a couple different things and testing kids more regularly at a couple schools right now. We hope to expand that program,” said Granger Junior High Principal Dan Kracha.

On Tuesday, Kracha’s National City campus hosted one of the rapid testing sites alongside San Diego State University, which partnered with the District to conduct the tests. More than a hundred people were in line by mid-morning.

“I recognize that a lot of people in this line are actually kind of heroes in their own way because they want to know if they have something so that they can be safe and others around them can be safe,” said Granger 8th Grader Zen Esguerra.

“It’s important here in National City,” continued Kracha. "This community got hit pretty hard by the coronavirus in the past.”

Kracha said they’ve done upwards of 200 COVID-19 tests in a day when his school hosted a site. In the meantime, SUHSD partnered with Concentric by Ginkgo to conduct pooled testing at a handful of campuses.

According to a letter sent home to parents, pooled testing uses a group of students that are either part of an athletic team, a classroom, or a choir. Each student does an individual nasal swab, but those swabs are all placed into one test tube. That test tube is then tested for COVID-19 together.

Concentric by Ginkgo’s website says it’s cheaper and could allow schools to test more students faster. If the sample comes back positive, the school can decide what steps to take. It could mean individual testing or sending everyone in the pool home until there are individual negative tests.

Kracha said he’s interested in anything that keeps kids on campus.

“We also have a responsibility to keep the kids safe and this is one of the things that we do to make sure they are safe here,” he said.

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