Vancouver resident Katie Bauer discusses the Vancouver School District’s plan to open COVID testing sites on five school campuses
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com
On Wed., Dec. 1, a local newspaper article that described how Embry Health has partnered with Vancouver Public Schools to open up COVID testing sites on five school campuses that would have started Mon., Dec. 6. These sites were slated to be open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. or 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m., depending on the campus. The article went on to say that 22 schools in total would be open by January as testing sites. Clark County has a population of approximately 500,000. Twenty-two testing sites, open for at least 10 hours a day, five days a week seems excessive.
VPS has a policy about testing needed to return to school after an illness. Testing is required if a student is not vaccinated and playing a contact sport. This is required twice a week for the duration of the sport season. The coaches administer/monitor this testing and test results are sent to the Health Department. High school basketball season is 12 weeks so that would be 24 nasal swabs for a student involved in basketball – additional if the team travels to tournaments.
The phone calls by parents to school district employees started at 8 a.m. on Dec. 1. The answers varied between statements such as “I have no idea what you are talking about” to “the communication by (the newspaper) was premature.’’ An employee at McLaughlin Middle School stated that he was unaware of the school becoming a testing site. When this employee was told 22 were coming by January, he laughed and said, “what are they planning for?” An employee at Gaiser Middle School also stated that the school had no information on becoming a testing site.
Embry Health was contacted. The employee at Embry was surprised the school district was not aware of their internal press release that was sent out on Tue., Nov. 30. Embry stated they have a contract with VPS. PODS were being delivered to the school testing sites. Alki Middle School had a POD in the parking lot. Thomas Jefferson Middle School had a POD in their parking lot but was not listed initially as a testing site. The reporter of the newspaper article was contacted. He said he received a press release from Embry and wrote the article. He did not contact the school district to verify the information. Before noon on Dec. 1 the article was re-written online. The PODS have since been removed.
Testing for an illness is appropriate. Is having 22 testing sites on school campuses appropriate? Are there plans to make testing mandatory to attend school, vaccinated or not? VPS campuses are closed to the public during school hours. Why would the public be allowed onto school property to congregate at COVID sites? Parents can’t volunteer on school property unless they are vaccinated. And those coming for testing may be coming because they have symptoms. Who is going to oversee security until 8 p.m.? VPS or Embry? Parents recently received an email regarding a student who experienced ‘stranger danger’ at her school bus stop. Could this be an issue at 22 campuses? Who is paying for all of this?
By noon on Dec. 1, VPS sent out a notice. “Vancouver Public Schools has been exploring partnerships to expand local COVID-19 testing capability and help families and staff members access tests. With the help of Clark County Public Health, the district is vetting possible partners but has not yet finalized any partnerships.”
As of the date this article was sent in, Embry website is still showing several job postings advertised for Vancouver, WA for testing and vaccination sites. https://embryhealth.breezy.hr/?&location=Vancouver%2C%20WA#positions
Parents and taxpayers need to be fully informed on all happenings at VPS.