POWAY, Calif. – Some San Diego County school districts are grappling with how to control the spread of COVID-19 after promised at-home test kits intended to be handed out before students returned to class from winter break never arrived.
“It’s nearly every district in San Diego County that were promised test kits from the state ahead of our students returning,” Poway Unified district spokeswoman Christine Paik said. “We were notified late last week that, in fact, they weren’t coming and we didn’t know when they would be coming.”
Paik added, “I actually reached out to school districts in other parts of the state as well, and pretty much most people are in the same position as we are right now.”
Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined California’s response to the surging pandemic amid the spread of the contagious omicron variant. The governor said the state would provide one or two rapid COVID-19 tests per student at K-12 public schools so they could be tested prior to returning to the classroom from break.
But some districts in the state, including here in San Diego, were reporting Monday that they’d received only a partial supply of at-home tests or none at all. One exception is the state’s second-largest district, San Diego Unified, which sent its students home with rapid at-home test kits prior to the break.
Elsewhere locally, the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District handed out thousands of the kits Monday. The district has been offering free take-home tests for students and employees since late last week with Monday being the last day to pick one up.
In a statement provided to the Sacramento Bee, a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health said the department is working with county education offices to get the tests to students. Delays have been attributed to “unprecedented storms” in the U.S. over the past two weeks, but the official noted the state has delivered “approximately 3 million tests” to counties with more on the way.
The result has created some frustration at Poway Unified, which returned from its winter break Monday.
“It really would have added that extra layer of security as everyone came back to campus,” Paik said, stating that delays could be for “any number of reasons.”
Although Poway Unified did not have a count of how many students stayed home Monday districtwide, more than 150 teachers and staff called out sick as well as a number of school bus drivers.
“We had 24 out of 120 bus routes affected due to transportation staff being absent,” Paik said.
Now, due to a surge in cases, some parents are asking why the district can’t return to remote learning.
“Last year we saw a surge after winter break and we did switch to virtual for two weeks following winter break,” she said. “This year, that is not an option for school districts. There’s state legislation that requires us to prioritize in-person learning.”
Click or tap here to see no-cost COVID-19 testing sites in San Diego County. Vaccination locations in the county are available here as well as through the federal government’s vaccination website, vaccines.gov.