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Atlanta Public Schools Launches COVID Surveillance Testing For Teachers, Students

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Atlanta Public Schools students from pre-kindergarten through second grade resumed in-person classes on Monday, January 25, 2021. Wuanicia Menefee says she looks forward to the option of getting her son Xavier, a first-grader, tested for COVID-19. "I would love to get him tested, just to make sure everything stays good," she said.

APS announced its taking that next step as part of its COVID-19 safety measures. "Atlanta Public Schools is leading the way in educating our students in the safest way possible by providing COVID Surveillance Testing," said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring, who held a press conference with other officials outside M. Agnes Jones Elementary School. "We believe that this is an important and critical next step."

"It's literally testing people whether they have symptoms or not to make sure the spread is being contained," said APS Board of Education Chairman Jason Esteves. They're launching it at select schools as early as this week, with plans to provide it to any of the school system's 55,000 students attending in-person classes.

"We believe that Atlanta Public Schools is the first Pre-K through 12 school district in the State of Georgia, or without question, perhaps the Metro area, to offer surveillance testing," Herring said.

Viral Solutions, the largest COVID testing provider in Georgia, will administer the tests. "We'll be performing Rapid Antigen Tests, and we will be doing nasal pharyngeal or nasal swabs," said Dr. Benjamin Lefkove, the CEO and a co-founder of Viral Solutions. "It is an extra layer of protection, along with masks, sanitizing and social distancing," said Ron Sanders, the company's president and co-founder.

Many parents have opted out of in-person classes for now. Menefee said she initially had concerns. "They're young, and you might have kids touching each other," she said. "They sound like they have a good plan, so I just hope everything is good," said Menefee, referring to officials.

"Their concerns are our concerns, and we are doing the best we can to work to ensure that we can provide the best we can to keep our staff, our families, our children, our people safe," Herring said.

Officials say they're optimistic this could open the door for more kids to return to the classroom.

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