Reforming GHS, One Rapid Test at a Time


Kylie Brown

Quick and Easy. Galena District Nurse, Emily Rowe poses in her PPE gear for performing rapid covid tests. “These tests are highly specific and have been studied closely by the CDC. The antigen tests are able to detect one or more specific proteins from a virus particle. All currently-authorized antigen tests are POC (rapid) tests and provide results in less than an hour,” said Rowe. “The biggest difference between the Antigen (rapid) test compared to the Molecular (PCR) test is the timing. The turnaround time for a rapid test is less than an hour, while the time for the PCR test can take several hours to days.”

In 2020, it feels illegal to have a runny nose or a cough. People fear that others will judge them and that it will put their lives on hold. Many students come to school with COVID-19 symptoms in fear of being sent home to quarantine or to receive a test. Traditional COVID-19 tests can take anywhere from one to four days to get results. If a student has a big game or test coming up, they may hesitate to report their symptoms. 

Many students in the district were having to self isolate because their classmates were coming to school with symptoms. The holiday season was right around the corner and the administration in the GUSD knew they needed to offer options to the members of their community. In December the District announced that they would be offering rapid testing to students, teachers, and teacher’s families within the district. 

According to the district nurse, Emily Rowe, “In October, the local health department presented the opportunity to offer rapid testing to all schools in the area. After having a discussion with the principals and superintendent Tim Vincent, we made the decision to move forward, accepting the offer from the health department, and started the process very quickly.”

On December 1st, the testing process began. Testing hours are available between 8:30 and 9:30 AM. To get a test, an appointment needs to be made through the school. The tests are performed in the middle school parking lot and results are given within a few hours. If the person getting tested is negative, they can return to school in 24 hours. Only symptomatic people are able to get tested. With that being said, family members must stay home until the symptomatic person gets a negative test result. If it is negative, asymptomatic people can resume their lives right away.

So far, this program has been very successful for our school district. 48 tests have been performed with three positive tests. Not only does this lower the number of symptomatic people coming into the building, but it also makes it easier to get exposed people quarantined faster. “Having rapid tests available at our school has been a total game-changer. The timing of the test results allows us to contact trace more efficiently,” said Rowe. “We are also able to significantly reduce the number of people who have to quarantine which allows us to continue in-person learning, which is crucial to the students. I am very pleased with how this process has been going so far.”

This advancement in our school district has greatly impacted the safety of staff members and students. Contract tracing can be performed at a faster rate without exposing students and staff for long periods of time. Not only that, but students and staff don’t have to wait 3-5 days for Covid test results. Testing will continue for the rest of the school year giving students hope that in person school will continue as opposed to shutting down the whole school during these crazy times.