In the district’s ongoing effort to keep students and staff safe, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will make COVID-19 surveillance testing mandatory for staff twice per week beginning the week of September 6, as a part of the district’s comprehensive mitigation strategy.

In the past 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) has committed to implementing comprehensive mitigation strategies to support the health and safety of our staff and students. These mitigation strategies and safety protocols include implementing regular COVID-19 surveillance testing at schools and offices, mandating universal mask-wearing, hosting and collaborating in COVID-19 vaccine events, instituting robust cleaning measures, and educating our stakeholders on best practices.

“Surveillance testing will allow us to keep up our momentum of quality, in-person learning and minimize the risk for everyone. Even if you are fully vaccinated, or have no symptoms, you may unknowingly expose others to the COVID-19 virus,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring. “Frequent surveillance testing can help protect your students, colleagues, and your loved ones at home. It is the best tool available to detect asymptomatic carriers.”

The district’s most compelling factors for consideration for both mandatory testing and exploration of mandatory vaccination are as follows:

  • 81.4% of employees who recently responded to our survey indicated they are fully vaccinated; out of approximately 6,000 employees we had 5,044 survey respondents.
  • Since July 17, 2021, 189 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those staff members that have tested positive for COVID-19, 50.3% (95 individuals) were vaccinated and 49.7% (94 individuals) were not vaccinated.
  • There is significant variation in vaccination rates for staff and students across APS schools (see the attached “heat map” charts).
  • APS has 20,012 students under age 12 enrolled in our traditional schools (as of Monday, August 23).
  • Even though APS’s employee vaccination number is over 81 percent, the district is seeing low staff participation in weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing.

APS schools remain prepared to pivot to a virtual instructional platform should the need arise due to a high number of confirmed cases.

“I want to thank our teachers and all of our employees for all that they are doing to keep our students and their fellow colleagues safe,” Dr. Herring said. “Their commitment to masking up, physical distancing, being vaccinated, and following our safety protocols all make a difference in ensuring our environment is safe. Mandatory twice weekly surveillance testing will now make our school even safer.”

 

This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.