SJ school district sends students, staff home with rapid COVID tests ahead of holiday break

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay and on the heels of the governor's new plan to move California from pandemic to endemic, a San Jose school district is applying lessons it learned from the last long holiday break.

The Franklin-McKinley School District sent students home with antigen rapid tests ahead of its Presidents' Week holiday.

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Superintendent Juan Cruz said more than 6,000 of the rapid tests went out to students and staff on Friday.

The request is that tests be taken before returning to school on Monday, February 28.

"We learned very quickly coming back from the Christmas break, that the rapid tests were an important safety measure," Supt. Cruz told ABC7 News.

It's a safety measure that falls in line with the state's new COVID-19 pandemic response, which involves taking lessons learned over the last two years and applying them.

Dr. Abraar Karan is an Infectious Disease Physician at Stanford University.

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He said beyond testing, the school district's holiday break happens to be well-timed.

"We have the great benefit that the incidence of new cases is coming down very quickly right now," Dr. Karan shared. "So even taking this week off from school is going to help, because when they come back, the incidence in the community is going to be much, much lower, even than it is right now."

Significant news for the district. Supt. Cruz broke down the demographics. He said 55% of students are of Hispanic background, 35% are of Vietnamese background.

"85% are students that are on a free or reduced lunch program, or English language learners, or foster youth," Supt. Cruz told ABC7 News. "We know that our community, through the pandemic, has been hit hard. And so, that's one of the reasons we feel that we have to do everything we can to maintain a safe environment for our schools."

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Jose Costa has a son within the district. He said while he understands the administration has students and safety in mind, he added, "We're still putting too much pressure. It's giving that sense that still we're - we're still deep into this situation of COVID. Which, I'm tired."

The district is asking students and staff to test on Friday, then again on Sunday before returning in person.

"The biggest safety measure is knowing who's positive and who's not," Supt. Cruz shared. "Especially for those who are asymptomatic. And the only way to do that is by testing."

"I think it will be a really important strategy. Because when you're home, you're obviously exposed to the other people in your house, you know, your parents and others who may be out working in the community," Dr. Karan shared. "We know a lot of the infections from the community come into the home and there's a lot of spread within the home. And so to prevent people who are infected unknowingly coming back and spreading the virus within schools and classrooms, using a testing strategy like this, especially for those days when you're coming back, could be really important."

Supt. Cruz said the district plans to take the same approach for Spring Break in April.

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