TEA kicks off pilot program for COVID-19 testing in eight districts, while a university offers free testing for educators in a study launching in Texas

Two weeks ago the federal government announced it would be shipping millions of COVID-19 rapid tests to states with a primary goal of using them for school districts. At the time it was unsure how many Texas would get and how they would be used. On Wednesday Gov. Greg Abbot, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management announced the “COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program for Texas School systems.” The pilot program will allow school districts to have COVID-19 testing available for district employees and students, who have received permission from their family.  

Questions remain regarding the validity of rapid antigen COVID-19 testing. Rapid testing delivers results in 15 minutes, although they are known to have a higher percentage of false negatives. Additionally, the U.S Food and Drug Administration says that “antigen tests are more likely to miss an active coronavirus infection compared to molecular tests.”

According to news reports, TEA is letting the districts decide how to use the tests and is making them responsible for administering the tests. Without standards or set plans for how tests will be used, it’s uncertain how this pilot will result in something that other districts can model. TEA also said it is accepting applications from other districts and private schools for participating in the program. The eight pilot schools districts are: Bob Hope School in Port Arthur, Fabens Independent School District, Grace Community School in Tyler, Granger Independent School District, Lampasas Independent School District, Longview Independent School District, Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, and Ysleta Independent School District.

Meanwhile, if you’d like an ongoing snapshot of possible past COVID-19 infection for yourself, a Texas university is inviting educators to participate in a massive testing study.The Texas Coronavirus Antibody Response Survey (Texas CARES) led by the UTHealth School of Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will conduct about 31,500 antibody tests for the Texas education workforce, in addition to thousands more for other populations. The antibody tests—which are designed to detect a past infection or one that has been present for a significant amount of time—are administered free of charge, and participants will receive their individual results after each sample is taken. Participation is voluntary and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis, and all results are completely confidential. For more information about participating in the study see the Texas CARES site.