Free, voluntary COVID testing starts at 21 Montgomery elementary schools

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:51 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 11:46 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Montgomery Public Schools system has partnered with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Bloom Health to offer voluntary COVID-19 testing to students, teachers and staff members at 21 elementary schools.

MPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore and officials with UAB and Bloom Health made the announcement Friday morning.

Moore said MPS is now administering tests to students and staff at 21 elementary schools on a weekly basis. That covers about 1,700 people. There are plans to ultimately expand that testing to all 52 of the system’s schools. The testing is free and voluntary, though parents are required to give permission before their child will be included in the program.

“So we want to encourage our parents to fill out the form, because we know we have to have permission to do this with our young ones, but it is available at your school,” Moore said.

The test will involve “the nose tickle,” according to Martha Wingate, the principal investigator on Alabama’s K-12 school COVID-19 testing and a faculty member at UAB’s School of Public Health. “So testing takes less than a minute. It creates, like I said, that sensation of a little tickle in the nose,” Wingate explained. It’s not the diagnostic test that requires a swab deep in the nose, which some can find painful.

The goal, Wingate said, is to have routine testing of people without symptoms to reduce the spread of COVID. That will, in turn, help keep kids and staff members in the classroom where they belong.

“We’re the organization tasked with making sure that that little tickle is as unintrusive as possible for our young ones,” explained Bloom Health’s CEO, Andrew Morton. “Our goal here is to make sure that families feel safe with their young ones...Our company is offering the ability for 24-hour turnaround for test results. The whole idea behind this is that families know right away what’s happened within the within the testing, and the schools feel safe.”

Noting the school system has 27,000 students, Moore reiterated safety being the top priority.

“We want to keep our students and staff healthy in our school buildings, and so we’re continuing to clean those on a routine basis,” she said. “We are continuing at this point to wear our masks. “We’re going to look at our COVID-19 protocols early next semester, we’re going to review them.”

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