Waterloo Region Public Health and local public school boards learned Tuesday that they will need to start doing asymptomatic testing.
That morning, there were no plans in place for such testing in the region’s schools, but a memo from the province that afternoon appeared to clarify that in-school testing will be required.
The memo from the education minister stated that each board will be required to do testing in at least five per cent of its elementary and secondary schools each week. They’ll also have to reach at least two per cent of the student population each week.
Which schools are tested will be up to individual school boards, but the province is asking the local boards to prioritize schools with high cases, or those where access to testing is a challenge.
An epidemiologist told CTV Kitchener that the main objective should be ensuring that schools are a low-risk environment for spread.
“What we really need to do with testing is not check the box,” said Colin Furness, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto.
“What we need to do with testing is first of all establish that schools are safe, and this is going to take weeks, many weeks for some schools just to get any testing done at all, it seems to me.”
The province expects the boards to have the program up and running by Monday.
A spokesperson for the Waterloo District Catholic School Board said Wednesday that the board would be meeting with public health officials the following afternoon to determine how to execute the testing.
SCHOOLS TESTED PER WEEK
At five per cent each, here is the number of schools that the province expects local boards to test weekly:
Waterloo Region District School Board: six
Waterloo Catholic District School Board: two
Upper Grand District School Board: four
Wellington Catholic District School Board: one
Grand Erie District School Board: three
Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board: two
Avon Maitland District School Board: two
Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board: one