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GRPS hopes staff COVID testing site and vaccinations help return of in-person learning

Posted at 4:56 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 20:23:29-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Grand Rapids Public Schools is now in its second week of running a COVID-19 testing site, exclusively for school staff.

GRPS said the testing site, combined with being part of the 1b vaccination group, will help significantly in getting students back to in-person learning.

Director of Health Services for GRPS Kim Baron explained, “They wake up, and if they even have just one symptom, they can call and schedule an appointment.”

It’s now that easy to set up a COVID-19 test within the school system.

Baron said that the drive-up site at Ken-O-Sha Elementary is quick, easy and contact-free.

She showed FOX 17 the saliva test kits Tuesday and explained how the process works, saying, “They just have to provide a saliva sample in this tube, take off that cap, put a new cap on, shake it, they put it in a biohazard bag. Then, when we go out with all of our PPE on, we take a baggie out and ask them to put it into here so that we aren’t having to handle the sample at all.”

Arctic Labs then picks up those samples every day and results come back within 24-48 hours.

“That way, we can get our school staff tested quickly, get the results quickly, and then if they’re negative, get them back into the classroom more quickly because we are trying to bring students back in person,” said Baron.

She said that staff members started getting their vaccines Monday, per expansion guidelines from the MDHHS. GRPS has a partnership with the Kent County Health Department, Spectrum Health and Mercy Health.

Baron said, “They sign up for whatever appointment works for them or the next available appointment, and then they get their confirmation from there. We’ve been told through those partnerships that as they receive more vaccines, there will be more appointments available.”

School nurses and other health staff, including Baron herself, have already received their vaccines.

She said, “It did feel like a relief, like we are finally taking steps towards getting back to something that might feel a little bit more normal.”

It’s a move Baron said their education team has been waiting for and are eager to participate in.

“We are glad that teachers and all school staff are a part of that Phase 1b, because they are interacting with kids and with each other every single day, so if we can ensure that they are going to be safe and healthy, then we can keep our kids in our classrooms being educated,” Baron said.

To schedule a test, GRPS staff can call 616-439-1812. The testing site is open 9-12 Monday through Friday.

All GRPS staff have received emails with links to make their vaccination appointments.

The COVID testing site is averaging about 2 tests per day, but Baron anticipates that number increasing as GRPS plans to return to a hybrid learning model on Jan. 19.

RELATED: Spectrum expands eligibility for vaccinations

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