Middle, high schools offering COVID-19 testing

Schools still on track to fully open in mid-January
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The Shawano School District is still on track to reopen all of its schools five days a week by mid-January, and Superintendent Randi Anderson has announced an additional measure to keep students and staff in school.

The district is implementing COVID-19 testing at the middle and high schools. According to Anderson, Shawano is one of several school districts partnering with ThedaCare to provide the optional screenings for students and staff, which started Jan. 5 and will continue through the month.

“They will actually be in our buildings, screening students and staff for those who would like to be screened,” Anderson said, noting that parents will need to register their kids ahead of time. “We are looking to offer this once a week through the month of January, and then we’ll reevaluate and see how that looks moving forward.”

There is no cost to the district for the program, as the federal government is funding it. Anderson said that the turnaround for test results is two to five days, depending on the volume, although a letter from Anderson on the district’s website says that results would be available “within two days.” The self-screening, which takes about a minute, is for students and staff who do not show symptoms, she said.

“It’s really just screening to keep COVID outside of our system, so that we are able to keep our doors open and our students and staff in our buildings,” Anderson said during the Jan. 4 Shawano School Board meeting.

She noted that all school staff will be eligible for the screenings, regardless of the building in which they work. However, the elementary school students are not eligible for the COVID-19 testing because health officials feel the screenings are more accurate with older students.

“There are several things we can do,” Anderson said. “We can mask. We can social distance, and we can wash our hands frequently. The other thing is to test frequently, so we are optimistic that, with providing this service at no charge to our staff and students, will help keep it out of our buildings and help keep our buildings open.”

The board voted in December to reopen its schools after the holiday break. Shawano Community High School is currently having students in person for two days a week, while the other schools are all open five days a week. On Jan. 19, the start of the second semester, SCHS will also be open five days per week.

Higher case numbers prompted the district to move to all-virtual learning in the latter part of September, which is where it stayed through the end of the year. The board voted to open the schools in January after hearing more than an hour of testimony from parents mostly advocating for in-person learning and criticizing the virtual format.

“We are on board. We’re ready, and we’re glad to have our kids back in,” Anderson said, clarifying that some families are opting to stay in virtual learning.

COVID-19 cases around the city of Shawano have been staying flat, Anderson said. With only one day of back-to-school data, she didn’t have firm numbers on whether the trend would continue, but she is optimistic that the schools might not have to close for lengthy periods of time again.

“We have positive cases in the system, and we have quarantined cases in the system, and we’re tracking those daily,” Anderson said. “We’re doing the best we can to fill our staff positions.”