UAB, CCSD partner for COVID testing

Published 9:15 am Monday, November 28, 2022

Dr. Angela Sullivan, program director for the K-12 COVID-19 testing project, discussed the UAB program and what it means for the Chambers County School District. CCSD Superintendent Casey Chambley agreed to participate in the program last week during a school board meeting in which UAB School Lead Jan Bell gave a presentation for the board. 

“I hope that the initial impact is that a lot of people were prevented from getting COVID, but the long-term impact is just safer schools in general,” Sullivan said. “We don’t want it to end when we do.”

The UAB COVID testing program is a voluntary service that the program provides to the schools within the county. Each student and staff member can choose to opt in or out of the program at any time. 

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If they choose to participate, students and staff will be tested for COVID once a week. The goal of the program is to help identify asymptomatic students within the school and help prevent the school from shutting down.

“We wanted to keep schools open, and schools wanted to stay open,” Sullivan said. “One of the ways to do that is to identify asymptomatic students.”

The program is in collaboration with the Alabama State Department of Public Health and the State Department of Education.

“We are the only program where the State Department of Public Health is subcontracting with a university,” Sullivan said. “This is the largest grant in UAB’s history.”

School districts that participate also receive supplemental school payments of $40,000 for the district and an additional $15,000 for each school. For CCSD, the total will be $175,000. 

The funding is designed to help with costs related to COVID including personal protective equipment and extra school nurses.

The Student Rewards card is an incentive for the students to participate. Every time a student gets tested, they will receive a $15 credit on a Visa rewards card. If one student gets tested every week, they can bring home $60 a month. 

“For families that have multiple children, that could really add up. That’s grocery money. That’s gas money,” Sullivan said. 

“For them to try to keep each other safe and keep their schools open, I’m hoping that instills in them a greater sense of their civic duty to the public self.”

The HEPA air purifiers are available to any school regardless of whether they participate in the rest of the program. The program is now able to offer up to 15 additional HEPA air purifiers and two years’ worth of air filters to each school. 

“We’re starting to think about cleaner air in schools,” Sullivan said. “That helps with cold and flu COVID, but it also helps with musty smells in older classrooms. It helps decrease the number of absences, which increases grades, test scores and overall student wellbeing.”

The company that provides the HEPA purifiers will still be available to troubleshoot warranties or provide additional filters after they run out. Sullivan said they wanted to make sure that it could continue even after UAB’s program end in July. 

“The school will still have a contact even after who they can talk to,” Sullivan said. “We’ve thought about not just the service but the customer service.”

The UAB grant program will end next July, so the 2022-2023 school year is the last year for CCSD to participate in it.