Students will go home for the holidays with rapid antigen COVID-19 screening kits

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Students in the Upper Grand and Wellington Catholic district school boards will be sent home for the holidays with rapid antigen screening kits.

The provincial initiative, first announced on Nov. 18, will offer kits at no cost to all students in the province who attend in-person learning at a publicly-funded school.

“The province’s aim for providing rapid testing over the winter break is an effort to promote a safer return to the classroom after the winter break,” stated Upper Grand District School Board spokesperson Heather Loney in an email.

Participation is voluntary, Loney said, and students are not required to participate in order to return to the classroom after the winter break.

The province recommends that students conduct the rapid antigen tests every three to four days over the holiday break, beginning Dec. 23, until all five tests have been used.

Anyone who tests positive with the antigen tests will then be required to take a confirmatory PCR COVID-19 test.

“It is important to know that the rapid antigen screening kits are only to be used when a child is asymptomatic,” Loney said.

“Anyone with symptoms or who is identified as a close contact of a case should still get PCR testing.

“Rapid antigen screening tests should not be used as a substitute for PCR tests for people with symptoms or for people who are close contacts of cases.”

Alison Wilson, spokesperson for the Wellington Catholic District School Board, said her board will also be sending home the kits and parents can opt out if they choose.

“It is an extra protective strategy that is being employed with the aim of identification of potential cases of COVID over the break,” she said in an email.

“All school boards will be distributing these kits before Christmas. Further communication will be sent to WCDSB families early next week.”

The province reminds people that screening kits are not a substitute for vaccination and to follow public health measures like wearing a mask and physically-distancing in public places, and frequent hand washing.

“While providing students with rapid antigen screening kits is an important tool for managing the spread of COVID-19, vaccination remains the most effective protection against the virus and its variants,” reads a statement from the province posted on the UGDSB website.

“Ensuring that children and youth are vaccinated will provide them with a strong level of protection and help to keep schools open and as safe as possible.

“It also is important to remember that we all need to continue with key public health strategies that have been effective in keeping this pandemic under control, including staying home when sick, getting tested if you have symptoms, washing your hands frequently and wearing a face covering as required.”