SAN DIEGO — San Diego Unified School District is providing all students a kit with two at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to use before returning from winter break.
The district says enough of the iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Tests were provided by the state to give to their more than 98,000 students this week before they leave school for the holidays. Administrators are hoping the at-home tests are a convenient way to catch any cases that could arise during the students’ time off.
“Many students will be traveling or gathering with friends and family over the winter break, and with a recent up-tick in case rates and the new omicron variant, students may be exposed to COVID-19,” the school board’s president, Richard Barrera, wrote in a news release. “These at-home rapid tests will help all of our students and their families have greater peace of mind about returning to school safely in January.”
Students should take the first of the two tests on Dec. 31 — three days before their return to school. The second test should then be taken the morning of Jan. 3 before heading to campus, according to the district.
“I’d rather know if they are sick or not and keep them home,” parent Timberlyn Arredondo told FOX 5, “and then that way, we are not transmitting to anyone else.”
Some parents are concerned people will misuse the rapid antigen tests or get a false negative.
“I don’t know if it will give people false results or giving people false hope about their results but at least it’s there,” parent Bobbi Sparks said.
Health experts say the tests can confirm a positive case most of the time. The tests are not mandatory, and families are not required to report the results unless a test comes back positive.
“The rapid antigen tests kits are extremely accurate,” said Susan Barndollar, San Diego Unified’s executive director of nursing and wellness. “I know it varies from brand to brand but on average, it is a high accuracy well over 90%.”
Students who don’t get a chance to take the tests home were told to make appointments for testing through their family doctor or at the San Diego County website for coronavirus testing.
While the district said taking the tests was “encouraged,” it did not outline specific requirements around testing.
SDUSD also encouraged students and their families to get vaccinated during the break from school, if they have not already. California students 16-and-up are required to get the shots in order to attend classes in person after Dec. 20. Vaccines will also be mandated for younger children as their age group moves from emergency authorization to full FDA approval.
FOX 5’s Megan Healy contributed to this report.