HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The superintendent of Horry County Schools announced on Monday that the district will not participate in the COVID-19 rapid test program.
This comes after Governor Henry McMaster signed an executive order just before Thanksgiving, giving the Department of Health and Environmental Control the authority to hand out 220,000 test kits to public schools.
During the Horry County Board of Education meeting Monday night, Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey said the district will “exercise our option to not participate in the program.”
Maxey said the district was originally in support of rapid testing. But things changed after the district reviewed what would be required by the State Department of Education and DHEC to use the rapid result testing.
Maxey said part of the issue is that the rapid testing can’t be conducted in the health room, which he said will create a trickle effect on the nurses’ time and resources.
“Our nurses who are in the health room would have to stop what they’re doing, fully suit up, wear shields and face masks, full-length surgical gowns and gloves to go conduct this test,” Maxey said. “DHEC will then require nurses to record the results in their data system, which will require nurses to be trained in data entry for that program. All test results, positive and negative, must be reported to DHEC within 24 hours. This is in addition to what they’re already doing. [The nurse] is [also] waiting in the room, that is not the health room, for 15 minutes with the student. The child is going to have to remain in the room and guess who has to remain in that room with them, the school nurse.”
In order for COVID-19 rapid testing to occur, parents must sign a consent form. Maxey said that process also posed a concern for the district.
“One of the things we’re very cautious about is verification of notes and making sure we have the parents permission and nothing the child has signed off on,” Maxey said.
Maxey said one of his biggest concerns with the rapid testing is that it could send a false message to families, thinking they could send their symptomatic kid to the school grounds.
“The problem with that, obviously, if the child is affected with the virus, and the child is on a bus, we end up [having to] quarantine more students due to exposure. After talking to people who do the job on a daily basis, we have to exercise our option to not participate in the program,” Maxey said.
Maxey made a point to state, the district will continue to support DHEC with testing at school sites, outside of school hours. Dr. Maxey also said when the time comes for vaccination distribution, the district is willing to collaborate to conduct those distributions on school sites.
Before the board meeting, the South Carolina Department of Education provided a list showing where all school districts stood on the rapid testing program. That list showed 46 districts would participate. Out of the state’s remaining districts, 27 have not decided if they will participate and seven have said they will not.
Florence County School District 3 and Darlington County Schools haven’t decided yet if they will participate.