Schools to host vaccine clinics, testing
Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Three schools will host COVID-19 vaccine clinics for children ages 5 to 11 in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.
Creekside Elementary will be the site of a clinic from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 19. On Nov. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m., Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School will host a clinic. Another clinic will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23 at Southwestern Elementary School. Children will receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has received emergency use authorization approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
The vaccine clinics are open to children with a parent or legal guardian present. Though walk-ins are welcome, pre-registration is strongly encouraged, and a link to do so will be made available by the school division in the week prior to the clinic.
Children do not have to be enrolled at the participating schools to receive the vaccine. However, for those children who are not enrolled at the clinic location, their parents or guardians are asked not to bring their children before 4:30 p.m. to allow for afternoon dismissal traffic to clear from school parking lots.
Parents and guardians are asked to print and complete consent forms, which are available online in English (https://bit.ly/vaccineformEnglish) and Spanish (https://bit.ly/vaccineforminSpanish). Copies are also available at each school.
The vaccine is a two-dose series, with the second dose to be offered 21 days after the first. Suffolk Public Schools will post a flyer on its website as a reminder of the second dose.
For more information, go to www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019/ncoov/vaccines/index.html.
COVID-19 testing for students, staff
SPS will also offer a free COVID-19 testing program for students and staff at its middle and high schools, as well as the College and Career Academy at Pruden, in a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health and Aegis Sciences.
According to separate letters sent by Supervisor of Activities and Athletics Richard Fortune to teachers and staff, and to parents, caregivers and guardians, the testing will be offered to all students and staff even if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. The letter states that “testing is voluntary but highly recommended.” No insurance information is needed since the tests are free.
Fortune provided an overview of the program to the School Board during its Nov. 4 meeting.
Aegis is providing and collecting the parent consent forms, providing the testing materials and will monitor and manage the testing sites, Fortune said. It will send the tests to their labs and report the results to the school division, parents and the state department of health within 24 hours.
Results to parents will come via email or phone, Fortune said, depending on how they registered with the forms.
The director of student activities at each school will be the site managers along with Aegis, while the company will be the test collectors. Students will self-test with assistance from Aegis company staff.
Fortune said stages at each school would be set up with three tables and would have four socially-distanced participants with a medical staff person in front of each table walking them through the test procedure.
Testing began the week of Nov. 1 for coaches and staff, while testing began the week of Nov. 8 for students. Consent is required to be submitted to Aegis for anyone to be tested.
The screenings, he said, are called pooled testing, in which individual samples are collected and then pooled at the lab. If the result is positive for COVID-19, a quick repeat will take place to avoid a second sample.
Fortune said fully vaccinated people are not required to test weekly. He noted that many students who play basketball have already been vaccinated.
“Many of our basketball teams, for example, when this was discussed, they went out and (got) vaccinated already,” Fortune said. “So we have quite a few students who have already, on their own, have been vaccinated.”
Testing will take place Monday through Thursday, with each school being assigned a day. Testing will also take place over the fall and winter breaks for high schools only.
“There is no out-of-pocket expense for the parent,” Fortune said. “This is an equitable practice for all.”