AISD activates COVID-19 rapid testing program to ensure student and staff safety after November break


Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/ David J. Phillip

At a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site, health care workers perform rapid COVID-19 tests on individuals in a drive through format. Starting on Wednesday, Dec. 2 and ending on Friday, Dec. 4, Austin Independent School District will offer rapid testing at six locations for participants in on-campus instruction that want to ensure they are not carriers of the virus. After an initial week of remote learning, on-campus instruction is projected to resume on Monday, Dec. 7.

Cade Spencer, Editor-in-Chief

Large family gatherings with exciting games, potlucks, and celebrations are traditional cornerstones of the Thanksgiving holiday. However, in the era of COVID-19, the typical family celebrations had to be adjusted to align with social distancing and basic health protocols

As part of the effort to ensure student and staff safety, the Austin Independent School District (AISD) declared that the first week of learning post break, from Monday, Nov. 30 to Friday, Dec. 4, would be hosted completely remotely

“My family adjusted our holiday experience in order to stay safe by having my brother, who was at college, get a COVID-19 test and have it be negative before he came over. We also quarantined for two weeks before leaving to go spend the holiday with my aunts,” senior Laurel Shultz said. “They also heavily quarantined, and we wore masks when we were not eating and spent as much time as we could outside and six or more feet apart.”

Although the initial week of instruction will be remote, AISD plans for students and staff, who were previously involved, to return to on-campus instruction on Monday, Dec. 7. Before participants return to campus; however, AISD has partnered with Austin Public Health to offer free rapid COVID-19 tests for individuals that participate in on-campus learning that may have experienced possible exposure to the Coronavirus over November break. 

“By moving to one hundred percent remote learning the week following the Thanksgiving break, the incubation period will have the opportunity to run its course and positive cases can be identified while safely at home,” AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie S. Elizalde said in a public announcement. “Our commitment to our community remains unchanged.”

The free drive through tests will be offered on three consecutive days, beginning Wednesday, Dec. 2 and ending Friday, Dec. 4. There are currently six testing locations for the district, including Burger Stadium, and participants have been asked to register prior to their appointment and complete the required paperwork

“I believe [the tests] are important as a way to stay on top of all COVID-19 updates and ensuring the utmost safety possible that we can have during this time at schools,” junior April Carroll said. “If someone is positive, they can and [the district] can inform the people they might have been around.” 

According to the AISD COVID-19 Dashboard, there have been seven positive cases connected to individuals on the Bowie campus, resulting in 89 possible exposures since the beginning of on-campus instruction on Monday, Oct. 5.

“I would not feel safe returning to school anytime soon,” Shultz said. “I want to stay safe and healthy, and in order to do that, I follow mask mandates and stay home as much as possible, especially from school when I can just do it at home.”

Throughout the week of remote learning, AISD will continue to offer free meal access and Wi-Fi buses whose routes cover the entire district region. 

“It is never easy to close our school doors, even temporarily,” Elizalde said in her announcement. “However, with news on new therapies and vaccines on the horizon, we are optimistic that safer days are ahead.”

Additional Reporting By Anna Holme and Faith Lawrence