Stanford experts advises Bay Area school districts on testing teachers, staff for COVID-19

"Our district is being proactive in finding ways to be able to do that, thinking outside the box, it's fantastic. I'm so happy to hear it."

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ByChris Nguyen KGO logo
Saturday, August 29, 2020
Stanford experts advises testing teachers, staff for COVID-19
Burlingame School District and Stanford University partner-up to test teachers and staff for COVID-19 before in-person learning resumes later this year.

BURLINGAME, Calif. (KGO) -- With distance learning in full swing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, parents across the state are dreaming of when they'll be able to send their kids back to school.

However, for that to happen, the state says teachers and staff will need to be tested for COVID-19. Those details will ultimately be decided at the local level, but at least one local school district appears to be further along in the planning process.

Officials with the Burlingame School District have already created a partnership with experts at Stanford University, which could be a model for other Bay Area school districts to follow in the coming months.

"It's so important that we get especially these younger kids back to school in safe manner and back on campus in some way of shape or form," said Burlingame parent Jennifer Ellison. "Our district is being proactive in finding ways to be able to do that, thinking outside the box, it's fantastic. I'm so happy to hear it."

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The district is now working on a plan for employees to be tested on a monthly basis, starting in November, when in-person learning is expected to resume.

"If the district takes on the responsibility of testing, have employees opt in, have us pay for the testing, and then the results on any positivities would be sent to the district, which would then help us to reach the reporting requirement, and the monitoring requirement that the governor has put out," said Burlingame School District superintendent Chris Mount-Benites, who was named to the post this summer.

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The district says it could cost up to $24,000 a month, if all of its nearly 300 employees opt into the program. Stanford would then conduct the testing at school sites for staff.

Mount-Benites added, "We can garner their expertise about testing, and they can garner our expertise about how that could better integrate with a public school district, so that we can sort of put together a plan."

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Stanford researchers would also get valuable insight into data that could help formulate and guide their recommendations in the future.

"We're helping them to try and interpret what those test results will mean in terms of bringing teachers back, bringing students back, and how do you scale the way schools reopen," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Stanford School of Medicine.

Multiple education officials from Bay Area counties have reached out to Stanford for consultation. The university is also formally advising the Los Angeles Unified School District on its COVID-19 testing strategy for students and staff.

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