Lake Ridge New Tech Begins COVID-19 Testing
People who aspire to be public school superintendents are, by training, well versed in the study of differentiated curriculum design, standardized testing, fiscal-year budgeting, child development, labor, school board and community relations, and various other issues that make up the nine-month school year.
In March 2020, something happened that, for the immediate future, has drastically altered that dynamic in a way previously not taught in graduate schools of education.
“COVID-19 has changed every decision we make,” said Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley, Superintendent of the Lake Ridge New Tech Schools.
The last two weeks of December are commonly known as Winter Break in education circles. Johnson-Shirley spent a good part of her holiday festivities following world news accounts of the fast-spreading Omicron variant—the latest form of the deadly COVID-19 virus—and discussing with her administrative team whether to open school on January 3.
“We understand that people are going to get together over the holidays—that’s what we do,” said Johnson-Shirley. “However, the Omicron virus is so contagious we had to come up with a plan to try and track its presence in our district. The virus creates a problem on several levels. First, if students are sick and need to be quarantined, they are missing school and that is not good. If they come to school, more students can get ill. The same is true for teachers, as when a teacher is out, we must figure out how to continue educating the students in that class. Right now, there are not a lot of substitute teachers available, and we end up having other teachers covering a class. It’s a domino effect—we lose administrators, custodial staff, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. Every aspect of operating a school district is affected.”
Johnson-Shirley and her team decided to postpone the reopening of school for the week of January 3-7 by re-implementing virtual learning. The move gave the district some time to allow students and staff to be tested for COVID-19.
“Despite all the issues, our goal is to open school for in-person learning, but to do it safely and in accordance with health guidelines and standards. That’s why we are testing,” Johnson-Shirley said.
Chicago-based Amita Laboratory will perform the COVID-19 volunteer test on faculty and K-12 students on Mondays and Thursdays each week, as needed. Assistant Superintendent Cindy Trevino said the test are free as part of the government’s fight against the virus.
“The state gave us a list of labs. We chose [Amita] because they were able to work within our schedule,” said Trevino.
The tests are self-administered and students under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian’s permission to take it. According to Lucy Meyer, a Testing Agent with Amita Laboratory, the sign-up process only takes a couple of minutes and can be done online or in person with a cell phone.
“People have to sign up online on the day of testing. We will send them a link, or if they come in person, they can scan a QR code with their phone,” Meyer said. “Students swab themselves, and then we collect the sample and send it to the lab.”
The positive or negative test results are sent to the individual’s email account within 2-3 days.
While people are often split on the issue of COVID-19 testing and mandates, several Lake Ridge parents welcomed the idea and brought in their children for testing. Amberlyn Czubara is the mother of two Longfellow New Tech Elementary School students.
Czubara said both of her daughters have health issues that require they be tested regularly.
“Getting sick would be bad for either one of them,” Czubara said. “I have to make sure they are safe so that they can live a somewhat normal life.”
Claudia Torres is the mother of an eighth-grade student and sophomore student in the Lake Ridge New Tech Schools.
“The virus is dangerous, and I want them tested to be safe,” said Torres.
Parents should contact their child’s school for more testing information.