Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland has announced plans to roll out random COVID-19 testing for students regardless of whether they show symptoms in a bid to get ahead of potential coronavirus outbreaks.
In addition, the school system — the second largest in Maryland — announced student-athletes older than 12 will have to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing — by as early as next month for participants in fall sports.
The testing strategy, announced in a news release Friday, comes a few days after the start of the new school year and after urging from members of the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
Random pool testing of students, which is set to begin Sept. 27, will only be carried out on students whose parents or guardians have opted-in to the system, and the school system is aiming to test approximately 10% of students with consent forms on file.
Random testing of staff is set to roll out a week earlier — on Sept. 20.
“Expanding our testing capacity to cover asymptomatic students will further protect the PGCPS community at large,” said Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson in a letter to parents. The letter said the testing would be provided by external vendors.
The school system said it already tests students who display symptoms of COVID-19. It’s unclear exactly how many of the school system’s 132,000 students are expected to have consent forms on file.
Last month, D.C. Public Schools announced it was moving to an opt-out system for random testing amid concerns that requiring consent forms would limit participation.
Regarding vaccination requirements for student athletes, Prince George’s County Public Schools said student-athletes over age 12 who participate in fall sports will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 15 our undergo regular testing.
“In light of recent incidences of COVID-19 exposure and cases among various teams, proof of vaccination for all student-athletes over age 12 will be required for participation in all sports,” Goldson stated in the letter.
The vaccination deadline for student-athletes in winter sports is Nov. 12; and the deadline for spring sports is Jan. 14.
With that move, Prince George’s County joins a number of school systems in the D.C. area, including Montgomery County in Maryland and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia, in requiring student-athletes to be vaccinated.
The school system announced a requirement last month that all Prince George’s County school employees be vaccinated or undergo regular testing.
The changes in Prince George’s County on testing come after six members of the Prince George’s County Board of Education said the Maryland school system does not have an adequate COVID testing plan. Earlier this week, they urged the county executive to get involved.
The six elected board members — David Murray, Shayla Adams-Stafford, Raaheela Ahmed, Edward Burroughs, Kenneth Harris and Joshua Thomas — wrote to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks on Thursday saying that a preventive COVID testing plan had not been presented to the board even though in-person learning already started.
The letter asked the county executive to intervene.
“Similarly sized urban districts in the area, such as Montgomery County and Washington D.C., have already implemented regular asymptomatic testing plans for students,” the letter stated. “The same is needed in Prince George’s County.”
The Thursday letter also claims Adams-Stafford tried to bring forward a motion to ensure the development of an asymptomatic testing strategy but the motion was “blocked
from being considered during the meeting by appointed Board Chair Juanita Miller.”
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