Aspen School District to provide weekly COVID-19 tests for staff, students through December

The Aspen School District.
Aspen Times file photo

Beginning Tuesday, the Aspen School District will start voluntarily testing its staff for COVID-19, a significant step toward keeping the schools open as cases continue to surge across the country. Voluntary testing of students will soon follow.

“It’s kind of a big deal. We are pretty excited about it,” ASD Superintendent David Baugh told The Aspen Times on Saturday. “It’s something we know our staff has been wanting for a long time, and we are thrilled we were finally able to figure out how to make it happen.”

Baugh said they’ll be able to provide nearly 2,000 tests per week, with results from the tests being turned around in about 48 hours. The tests come from Curative, a lab based out of Los Angeles. The tests are oral swabs, which are then placed in a test tube and shipped to L.A. where they are analyzed.

These are the same tests in which Pitkin County recently received 1,000 of, although the deal with ASD is separate from the county. The school district’s tests are being paid for by the state through leftover money from the CARES Act, which was passed in March. The deal runs through December.

“Basically we can do as much testing as we want, so we are doing about 1,800 tests a week, starting this coming week,” Baugh said. “It’s all voluntary, but it takes 20 seconds to take the test. It’s not going to jam up us as a school district. It’s really medically non-invasive. It’s a mouth swab.”

Should anyone, student or staff, have a test that comes back positive for coronavirus, Baugh said they’ll be asked to quarantine for at least 10 days and will be asked to seek a second test before being allowed back on campus.

Any positive tests also will be reported to Pitkin County Public Health, while Curative will provide testing results directly to the state.

“These are way more accurate than the ones we have been using in Colorado,” Baugh said. “They are like 90% accurate.”

The older ASD students, including the high school, returned to in-person learning this past week. Access to weekly testing, at least through the remainder of 2020, will be an important resource in keeping the doors open.

The district will hire a couple of part-time, temporary employees to help with the logistics surrounding the tests. Those positions will go away whenever the tests are no longer available or needed.

“Our staff have been asking for it for months, so we finally found this workaround,” Baugh said of weekly testing. “They’ve all been working on it for quite a while. It’s a beautiful thing when something like this comes together.”

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