School districts across the Central Coast will begin testing employees for COVID-19.
Tuesday is the first day that COVID-19 test kits started being mailed to Lompoc Unified School District staff. This particular test is a nasal swab that is to be done at home.
Under Governor Gavin Newsom's mandate, all school staff must be tested once every two months.
Santa Barbara County Public Health says each school district has a different plan.
"25% every two weeks or 50% every month," said Dr. Peggy Dodds, Santa Barbara County Deputy Health Officer/Pediatrician.
For Lompoc Unified, all 1,100 employees will be tested at once. Long-term substitutes, walk-on coaches, or anyone who has contact with other staff members and/or students must make sure they're COVID-free, too.
School districts are also choosing a variety of testing methods.
"Some are having people do it on their own, some are going to the test sites. For some of them, we've set up some coordinated times where they can come to the county test sites and get tested," Dr. Dodds explained.
"We went with the at-home testing in order to minimize the inconvenience for staff," said Bree Valla, Lompoc Unified School District Deputy Superintendent. "They don't have to worry about coming in and getting their test from a school site."
Earlier this month, the school board voted to reopen for in-person learning in January.
But before that happens, "We're asking everyone to get tested prior to reopening. One time, close to reopening, so we know where we stand as a baseline," Dr. Dodds said.
The district says this week's kit distribution moves them one step closer to being able to reopen schools safely.
"Having this surveillance testing will allow us to monitor and make sure that no asymptomatic individuals are exposing other people," Valla said.
When it comes to cost, each test is $115. Employees that have health insurance with the district are covered. For those that don't, the district will pay for it.
"What's important is making sure that our staff and students are safe so we feel that the money is being well spent," Valla said.
Santa Barbara County Public Health says it is not giving money to the school districts for the testing. They are paying for it on their own.
Public Health says the at-home tests are done on the honor system. If a staff member does test positive, they must quarantine for 14 days.