EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – The Ysleta Independent School District and Fabens Independent School District announced its participation in Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program for schools on Wednesday.
YISD and FISD are among eight Texas school systems participating in the mass testing pilot program, which will conduct rapid tests of district employees and students, with parent permission. As COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations remain high in the El Paso area, the districts are offering the rapid testing free of charge to employees, as well as students involved in extracurricular activities such as athletics.
Since the start of the high school football season in the El Paso area, 13 football games have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, along with multiple volleyball games. Without consistent testing, it has proven to be very difficult to conduct athletics across the world, including in El Paso. However, the testing being made available to YISD and FISD will help those districts keep student-athletes safe.
Student-athletes and other students participating in extracurricular activities are the main students utilizing the testing within YISD, which began on Wednesday, per a district spokesperson. In future weeks, a larger sampling of the student body will be privy to the tests, when the district returns from intersession and students return to on-campus learning.
“As more students return to campus for in-person instruction, the State of Texas is working alongside school officials to provide resources to mitigate the spread of COVID19 among students and staff,” Gov. Abbott said.
Through participation in the pilot program, the districts will receive BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card tests. It is an antigen test, which is designed to detect proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19. Positive results from these rapid tests are highly accurate and can help limit the spread of COVID-19 among families and the larger school community.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states and territories will receive approximately 100 million of the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card tests through December, distributed in proportion to their population.
Fabens ISD paused all athletics on Monday due to the increased spread of COVID-19 in the El Paso area, but will be conducting tests of students and employees.
Governors will determine the best use of tests for their states, including the reopening of K-12 schools through testing of teachers, staff, and students, among others.
The other school districts taking part in the pilot program include Granger ISD, Lampasas ISD, Longview ISD, Harlingen Consolidated ISD, Grace Community School (Tyler), and Bob Hope School (Port Arthur).
Other districts that are interested can apply to be a part of the program no later than Oct. 28.
“This rapid testing pilot program will be an effective strategy to protect the health and safety of students and staff while helping to further ensure that Texas students have access to a quality education throughout the pandemic and beyond,” Abbott said.