School sites offer COVID-19 tests to symptomatic college students, staff in Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Students and school staff in Kent County who have symptoms of COVID-19 can get tested through a new school-based testing site at Grand Rapids Public Schools.

A COVID-19 testing site opened this week at Ken-O-Sha Elementary School, 1353 Van Auken St. It is the fifth school location in the county to open this month. Ken-O-Sha is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm and is currently only available by appointment, as GRPS announced on Monday.

GRPS and other school districts are partnering with the Kent County’s Department of Health and Artic Medical Laboratories to offer the COVID-19 testing.

Currently, testing is limited to only students and school staff in Kent County who have symptoms of COVID-19.

Kim Baron, GRPS director of health services, said school-based testing is currently inaccessible to asymptomatic individuals due to limited resources.

“We do not currently offer screening tests in our schools as it would be a huge undertaking and would require a lot of human resources to conduct regularly scheduled tests on all asymptomatic GRPS students,” Baron said in a statement emailed.

“Instead, we implemented other mitigation strategies, such as universal masking, frequent hand washing, improved ventilation, and reminding staff and students to stay home if they are ill. We’re also in touch to follow up positive cases and follow Kent County’s Department of Health’s isolation and quarantine guidelines.

Baron said that due to these precautionary measures, there have been very few transmissions at school in the classroom.

Common COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, body aches and pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headache, fatigue, constipation, and runny nose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students and staff can schedule an appointment online through the Kent County Health Department here. Participants are asked to fill out the registration documents, which are available here, before the appointment.

Upon arrival at the primary school, participants are asked to stop in their vehicle under the canopy along the southeast side of the building in front of door B, the former preschool. Students and staff are asked to stay in their vehicle until someone brings the test materials to their car.

The COVID-19 tests are saliva PCR tests that the district says will be sent to a laboratory to see if the virus is detected. The test results will be sent to participants via SMS or email between 24-48 hours after the appointment.

To take this test, participants are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum for 30 minutes before taking the test.

There are four other school districts in Kent County that offer COVID-19 testing to students and school staff, said Sara Simmonds, director of environmental health for the Kent County’s Department of Health. Those counties are Forest Hills, Rockford, Wyoming, and Sparta, and all of them opened last week.

Below are the times and locations for each of these websites. Appointments can be made here.

  • Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, 600 Forest Hill Ave. in Grand Rapids. Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8.30 a.m. to 11.00 a.m.
  • Rockford Public Schools Special Services Office, 235 Courtland St., Rockford. Open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Sparta Public Schools Administration Building at 465 South Union St., Sparta. Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8.30 a.m. to 11.00 a.m.
  • Wyoming High School, 1530 Prairie Parkway Avenue, Wyoming. Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8.30 a.m. to 11.00 a.m.

The health department strategically selected these school districts to offer COVID-19 testing based on their geographic location, Simmonds said. Health officials wanted to ensure that students and school staff from across the county have equal access to testing sites, she said.

“It’s actually a community site, it really is by design,” Simmonds said. “It was really intended to help our schools and to help our school nurses who are really trying hard to handle this.”

Over 200 people have been tested at the five test sites since last week, Simmonds said.

More about MLive:

Grand Rapids Public Schools is setting up a virtual panel to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines for adolescents

View the fall 2021 enrollment numbers for schools in the Grand Rapids area

COVID-19 booster vaccinations will be available at the Grand Rapids Community College Vaccine Clinic on October 27th

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