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Students supplied with rapid test kits at three Cold Lake schools

Since Nov. 21, three NLPS schools have experienced AHS confirmed outbreaks – a provincial program has been sending rapid testing kits home with students from kindergarten to Grade 6, and staff – in order to monitor for potential COVID-19 transmission.
Stock photo.

LAKELAND – Near the end of October, the Government of Alberta rolled out a voluntary K-6 At-Home Rapid Testing Program for elementary schools. 

Since mid-November, the Northern Lights School Division (NLPS) has had three of its schools, Cold Lake Elementary, Nelson Heights Middle School and North Star Elementary, placed on Alberta Health Services (AHS) outbreak list.  

Although the schools’ COVID statuses change regularly, Nicole Garner, the communication officer for NLPS, confirms that all three schools participated in the province’s at-home rapid test program.   

“We ordered at-home rapid testing kits for students and staff at all three schools and we have had many parents request and receive the kits for their families,” said Garner.  

Participation in the At-Home Rapid Testing Program is voluntary and is only intended for kindergarten to Grade 6 students and staff who are not symptomatic. 

According to an informational package released by the province, “The program is focused on K-6 students because vaccines are not yet available for students in this age group. The tests are only for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. If they test positive, they can be isolated early to stop the spread.” 

Children 12 years of age and older are not eligible to participate in the program, unless the student is in sixth grade. In those circumstances, participation eligibility is at the discretion of the school.  

Garner explains, “Once AHS has determined that a school meets the criteria for an outbreak, they contact the school and NLPS shares a letter with all parents and guardians... It takes approximately 72 hours for the rapid test kits to arrive at a school once we have applied for them.” 

The children of parents who consent to participating in the program receive 10 testing kits from the school to perform two tests each week for a period of five weeks. 

Anyone who tests positive will have to follow up by booking a test with AHS and they are legally required to isolate for 10 days, unless they receive a negative PCR test.  

Participants in the K-6 At-Home Rapid Testing Program are not required to report the results of their rapid tests to the school. 

In a statement to Lakeland Today, Superintendent Pamela Guilbalt of the Lakeland Catholic School Division (LCSD) confirmed that "As per the government program, (LCSD) have had two schools take advantage of the rapid test kits, as the program was in effect when the schools were on outbreak status.”

“We are following all health guidelines, and reporting all AHS confirmed cases to our school community through the school websites. This information can also be found on the Alberta provincial reporting site,” said Guilbalt. “We have had positive participation from our schools regarding reporting confirmed cases and the Alberta government’s rapid test program.”

Rapid kit disclaimer

The program’s information package states that the rapid tests are designed to be used as a screening tool for individuals who are asymptomatic.

“If a student or staff member participating in the program starts to display symptoms of COVID-19 throughout the rapid testing program, they should book a PCR test at an Alberta Health Services (AHS) assessment centre.”  

Also included in the government’s information package is a disclaimer: “Rapid screening tests are not as accurate as lab-based tests done through an AHS assessment centre. The likelihood of someone with no symptoms having a false positive result from a rapid test is low. However, all positive results from a rapid screening test need to be confirmed by an AHS lab test. You will need to go to an AHS assessment centre if you or your child test positive. The likelihood of someone with no symptoms having a false negative result is higher. A negative result on a rapid screening test does not mean that person is not infected or could not become infectious.” 

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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