Conor photo

Teachers tested in batches as students return to classes

No teachers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Oak Harbor Schools has twice done some unique COVID-19 testing as students are slowly returning to in-person classes on a limited basis.

Conor Laffey, communication officer for the district, said officials worked out an agreement with the company Northwest Laboratories to do batch testing of teachers and other faculty, which was a huge cost savings.

Nobody has tested positive.

Laffey explained that swabs from 10 different people are placed into one test tube, which the laboratory then tests as a single sample. Each 10-person test cost $200, which is essentially the typical cost of an individual test.

If any of the batch tests had been positive, then the 10 people would be individually tested at a discount price of $95 a person.

Laffey said the test was offered to teachers before school started and just about everyone wanted to get tested, which was about 700 people. The test was administered Sept. 8 and the results came back as all-clear the next day.

School started Sept. 14. Elementary students began with the option of a hybrid rotation model, Laffey explained. The kids are divided into two groups, with one going in-person Mondays and Tuesday and the other on Thursdays and Fridays. The days they aren’t at the school they do online, distance learning.

“We’re the largest school district in Washington to do this,” Laffey said, adding that it has worked well with both students and teachers social distancing and wearing masks.

In fact, other districts have been in contact with Oak Harbor to learn how officials have handled both the testing and the in-person learning, he said.

With the hybrid rotation starting next week at Oak Harbor Intermediate School, teachers and staff in the building were tested again Wednesday. The results came back Thursday, Laffey said, and everyone was negative.

The middle school will be next for the hybrid rotation, followed by the high school. Laffey said the exact dates haven’t been determined.

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