'Going to feel safer': Bay Area schools offer COVID testing before classes resume after holidays

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Thousands of Bay Area students are ready to return to school next week after winter break and getting tested is the first step before returning to class. Some districts are bracing for a potential spike in COVID cases and are working to make tests available this weekend.

"The break was really fun now I can see my friends again," said student Miles Halbert.

Miles Halbert is ready to go back to school in San Francisco but not until he gets a COVID test. His mom Samantha knows it's got to be done.

"I'm not necessarily happy about it, but it's part of what we need to do, new normal," said parent Samantha Higgs.

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San Francisco Unified is bracing for a potential surge in COVID cases, it's recommending all students and staff get tested before returning to class. Free rapid testing will be available at school district headquarters and other school sites for the next week.

"This community has really stepped forward to do what's necessary in regards to getting tested and taking care of each other," said SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews.

The line was long outside the school testing site. Home test kits were also available to families.

"I'm going to feel safer because I know I don't have the virus," said third grader Zach Cohn.

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San Jose Unified offered free testing Sunday at its operations warehouse.

"Today we're doing about 800 tests at this location in anticipation of school starting Tuesday," said SJUSD Health Services Manager Katie Rodriguez.

In Marin County, 47,000 students and staff will test at home for COVID before returning to class with test kits provided before the holidays.

"So it will allow us to identify people, who don't even know they're positive for COVID to stay home," said Novato teacher Liz Duffield.

Some wonder why not postpone the start of school or pivot to remote learning for several weeks to allow for the surge? Dr. Alok Patel believes that option can be avoided with safeguards and testing.

"I respect the fact that different school districts around the country are doing what they can because we know in person learning is the best place for students, not only academically and mental health, but safety and nutrition," Patel said.

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