School board moves ahead with rapid COVID-19 testing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 25, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education approved opting in to a state-funded COVID-19 testing program on Monday.

The tests would be available for free to staff and students to help diagnose COVID-19 more quickly at designated sites. Taking a test is optional and students would need parental permission to be tested. The program is funded by the state, and the district needed to opt in before Sept. 13, the day of its next meeting. The board can choose to pull out of the program later.

The district opted in to the diagnostic testing program, which would offer rapid tests to people who are symptomatic so they can get results quickly and know whether they need to quarantine.

Ginkgo is the chosen testing vendor. Several vendors are assigned to administrate the statewide program depending on region. Details on sites will be worked out with the vendor now that the board has decided to move ahead.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging every district in the state to opt in to the program.

Board member Alisha Byrd-Clark said she would like to offer her nonprofit’s office as a testing site at no cost to the district and asked if that would be a conflict of interest. The board’s lawyers will advise, based on the final program determined by the state, whether that arrangement would constitute a conflict.

In other news from the meeting:

• The board recognized Susan Cox for her service on the board and presented her with gifts. Cox said it was a privilege and an honor to serve on the board. She is moving to Guilford County to be closer to family and the board is in the process of finding an appointee for the next year for her seat.

Her fellow board members commended her as a mentor. Byrd-Clark said Cox and fellow member Jean Kennedy took her under their wings.

“The girls club will never be the same,” Byrd-Clark said, adding they have agreed more times than they have disagreed.

Member Travis Allen said Cox was a big influence on him and made sure he knew he would be heard.

“I think she really helped me mature as a board member and understand my role,” Allen said.

• The district is preparing to place senior administrators in schools to help cover classrooms or ensure schools get the help they need amid a large number of staff absences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were more than 250 absences as of Friday and the district’s substitute fill rate was 54%.

Superintendent Tony Watlington gave the board an overview of the district’s summer leadership institute, during which faculty addressed key district issues like increasing academic growth, reducing the number of low-performing schools, increasing enrollment and developing a new renewal-based accountability model.