Robbinsdale School District Ramps Up COVID-19 Testing
The Robbinsdale School District is trying to curb COVID-19 case growth. A surge in COVID cases has resulted in the state’s highest average test positivity rate since April. The positivity rate is at 7.3 percent, well above the state’s caution threshold of 5 percent. Area schools are feeling the impact.
To counter the surge and keep students in class, the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education teamed up to make free COVID-19 tests available for students and staff. The Robbinsdale School District was among those that applied for a grant to expand its testing program.
“We were awarded $660,000, roughly around that area, that we’ll be using to increase the number of tests we have, to help with testing coordination, supplies,” explained Candace Burckhardt, assistant director of student services.
District officials say testing is important, especially since Armstrong and Cooper high schools are on the Minnesota Department of Health’s list of schools with COVID-19 outbreaks. The state puts a school on the list if it has five or more students and staff test positive. While the exact number of COVID cases for either school are not known, an outbreak could be a low percentage considering there’s hundreds of people in each of the buildings.
“We are seeing some cases, but again, the mitigation strategies that we have in place with the masking, the testing, and then sending kids home when they’re sick has really been helping us,” said Mattie Melin, school nurse at Armstrong High School.
Free COVID-19 Tests Break Down Barriers
Free COVID-19 tests are available to all students and staff in the district. Robbinsdale schools currently use saliva tests, which people take home and get results emailed to them. Robbinsdale district officials say the tests knock down barriers and make testing more accessible.
“For some families, transportation is an issue. And for some families a lack of access or a language barrier might be an issue,” said Melin.
School leaders say testing is critical to keep students and staff healthy and in the classroom.
“We feel strongly about helping to reduce cases by catching symptomatic students, or students and staff that may not be symptomatic, but we can really prevent spread by catching it,” said Burckhardt.
Minnesota extended its grant program until Oct. 15 to help fund testing kits for students and staff. As of Sept. 28, the state said approximately 44 percent of all public and tribal schools had requested grants.