Opt-in COVID-19 baseline testing implemented

OPUSD becomes the first district in Ventura County to start a full screening procedure

Opt-in COVID-19 baseline testing was implemented at OPUSD starting from Sept. 8. 

In the Sept. 3 StudentSquare post, Superintendent Jeff Davis explained that because of a state grant program, OPUSD will be the very first district in Ventura County to include a full system of testing in its COVID-19 screening response. The initial baseline log will be followed by regular surveillance of symptoms and signs. 

The term “baseline testing” refers to a PCR test, the results of which will be utilized to create a “baseline” record of the condition of elementary, middle, and high-school students. 

Baseline testing is not mandatory. For those who opt-in through a form that was sent this week, baseline testing will occur on campus during students’ English classes.

Compiling the baseline officially began Wednesday, Sept. 8 at Oak Hills Elementary School and took place throughout the school day. The campuses on which tests are administered switch out intermittently, with Oak Park High School being scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 21 and Wednesday, Sept. 22.

This new procedure will use the same screening system that OPUSD has been using for its optional testing: COLOR Labs. After students are administered the lower-nasal swab test, it will then be analyzed using the PCR assay from the Valencia Branch of the California Department of Public Health. The CDPH chose this particular test because it has the ability to detect a lower level of virus, even in those who appear asymptomatic. For this reason, the PCR test from the CDPH-Valencia Branch is one of the most sensitive of those used in labs across the United States. 

According to Davis, nurses will be present at all schools to check in the students and provide instructions on how to do the test. The type of assistance will vary depending on the grade levels, but even OPHS will still have nurses on campus to handle COVID-19 testing, just in case. 

While CDPH testing is only reserved for students, the district will still be continuing its regular screening process for all students and employees of OPUSD. 

“The after-school, free and available testing we’ve had since school started is held at a different site each day,” Davis said. “For now the District Office is the Wednesday site — however, this is subject to change.”

It is important to note that participating in the baseline test collection through OPUSD is optional. However, there are a few cases in which showing a negative test result is mandatory. 

“Testing is not required for the whole student body, but if a student is planning on going to the Homecoming dance on Sept. 25, they have to get tested either through baseline dates or on their own,” Assistant Principal Natalie Smith said.

In a new StudentSquare notification posted on Wednesday, Sep 15 by OPHS Principal Mat McClenahan, it was confirmed that students who plan to attend Homecoming, must be tested on or after Tuesday, Sept. 21. 

The same goes for out-of-district Homecoming guests.

“Students or their guests can get tested outside of the district as long as the test is a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test,” Assistant Principal Jason Meskis said. “They will then submit that result to the email [email protected].”

Results must be sent to the above email address no later than Friday, Sept. 24 at 5:00 PM with the subject line: “HOMECOMING.”

Proof of vaccination cannot be brought to the dance in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test.

Testing also extends to students participating in extracurricular activities outside of school time — save for those in academic eighth periods such as Mock Trial.

“The CDPH requires that all students who take part in a current extracurricular activity MUST be tested or they will not be allowed to participate,” McClenahan wrote in the post. 

“We are going to request that athletes participate in the baseline testing as it will be easier for everyone,” Meskis said. “Students in interscholastic sports such as color guard, the dance and cheer team, and marching band need to get tested as well.”

As per guidance from the Ventura County Public Health Department, students who have previously tested positive and have been cleared to return to school are exempt from COVID-19 testing for 90 days from the date of their positive result. 

Students who have never registered with COLOR Labs can do so at this link. They will also have to bring their Student ID card with them on Sept. 21 or 22, whichever day they have English class. Following testing, both OPHS and the parent/guardian who registered the student will gain access to the results. 

“The initial test is for the baseline information, and if every student participates, it will help us see where we’re at right now,” wrote Davis. 

More information can be found on the continuously updating OPUSD COVID-19 Resource page and the Student Health Decision Tree for protocols regarding self-quarantine and isolation if one experiences any viral symptoms. 

“We are all in this together, and COVID-19 is not just a school issue,” Davis wrote. “It’s also a community issue, and we must all do our part to keep each other safe.”