Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) officials began distributing thousands of rapid COVID-19 tests this week, enabling districts to test symptomatic students and staff in 15 minutes.
Nearly 330 districts/schools applied to participate in Missouri’s BinaxNOW Antigen Testing Program for K-12 Institutions, requesting a total of nearly 583,000 test kits for use among symptomatic students and school personnel. These minimally invasive nasal swab tests must be administered by a health professional (e.g. a school nurse), and yield results in just 15 minutes. Many districts/schools will perform these rapid tests onsite, after receiving the appropriate consent from the staff member or the student’s parent/guardian. Some districts/schools have partnered with their local health department or another medical provider in their community to assist in administering these tests. Positive and negative test results will be reported electronically to the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) within 24 hours.
Grain Valley Schools Superintendent Marc Snow reported during the Board of Education’s October meeting that the district had applied for 5,000 testing kits and has 5 district nurses who can administer tests.
“The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) continues to work hard to make any and all resources available to school leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said.
“We believe these rapid antigen tests, in conjunction with other mitigation strategies, could be instrumental in helping schools provide onsite learning opportunities safely. We appreciate colleagues at DHSS and the State Emergency Management Agency for working quickly with our team on this important initiative.”
Districts/schools that applied will receive the number of test kits requested (up to one test per student and staff member, due to limited inventory) in incremental shipments over the coming months. In the state’s current inventory, there are approximately 240,000 test kits available to distribute to K-12 schools that have provided the required assurances and documentation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services prioritized public and private K-12 schools to receive the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test kits free of charge, along with higher education institutions and long-term care facilities. Missouri is expected to receive a total of 1.84 million Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test kits.