Hamilton County Schools to pilot a new rapid test for COVID-19
Posted on 12/02/2020
Photo: Hamilton County Schools logoHamilton County Schools is one of only seven school districts in Tennessee selected to pilot a rapid COVID-19 testing program through the Tennessee Department of Health and the Department of Education. The new test (BinaxNOW) will help school districts implement COVID-19 testing in their facilities that will provide results on-site within approximately 20 minutes. Scheduled to begin Friday, December 4, Hamilton County Schools will be the first pilot school district to start the program.

The pilot program will also provide PCR tests by Everlywell, a self-administered mail-in PCR test, to follow up on the rapid tests as needed depending on symptom and testing status. This PCR test would verify rapid test results if an individual with symptoms tests negative or an asymptomatic individual tests positive. The PRC test would be collected on the same day as the rapid test. All supplies for the tests are provided to the state's school district at no charge, allowing staff and students to receive testing for free.

School nurses will administer the tests, and all results will be reported to the Tennessee Department of Health. Staff who are symptomatic may contact their school nurse and inquire about getting tested that day. The test results will be used to determine public health action and provide guidance on the staff member or student's next steps.

The pilot program will be conducted in phases to determine capacity and program implementation. In the first stage that will begin Friday, symptomatic staff at middle schools in Hamilton County Schools will be tested. For stage two, the testing will expand by December 14 to include all the district's symptomatic staff. The third stage will include testing symptomatic students beginning at the start of the spring semester. The final stage will include testing asymptomatic staff in a walk-up or routine screening as supplies and capacity allow.

Stages planned in the Rapid Test Pilot

Stage One – Symptomatic staff will be tested at middle schools. Middle schools were chosen to pilot the program and test capacity for school nurses. Middle schools are typically between elementary and high schools in the number of staff because there are only three grade levels. The smaller numbers will allow the district to determine schools' resources and capacity to implement the pilot. The first test will be ready to be administered by December 4.

Stage Two – Symptomatic staff will be tested at all schools.

Stage Three – Symptomatic students at all schools at the start of the spring semester

Stage Four – Asymptomatic staff members at all schools will be tested tentatively beginning on February 1.

“The priority for everyone in Hamilton County Schools is to keep students and staff safe while continuing to help our children learn and grow,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “The rapid test pilot will be an important addition to our SAFE Pledge that is reducing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our children in safe learning situations as our teachers and staff prepare them for success in life.”