OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the classrooms inside Omaha Public Schools, the school board voted to expand a program that will help test students and staff for the virus in North Omaha in efforts to prevent the spread.
It’s an effort school board member Ben Perlman says is much needed.
“Hospitalized in Douglas County has gone up 400 percent in the last 2 months, completely ridiculous and unsustainable,” he said.
Similar to its already established partnership between UNMC and three other South Omaha schools, the Charles Drew Health Center will provide saliva testing to detect asymptomatic students and staff at no cost to them.
The health center will test wastewater and analyze air and surface samples from high-touch areas inside the school at three additional schools in North Omaha: King Science Center, McMillan Middle School, and Northwest High School.
The agreement states that for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, if a student or staff member tests positive, the health center would notify the district within 24 hours and would provide follow up care and testing for the infected person.
At Monday's meeting, some applauded the district for expanding its COVID testing program.
"I want to say, whoever is running this, and OPS and the Charles Drew leadership, thank you so much for partnering because we do need a lot of testing and especially as we open up school, because unless we know how many people are affected, we don't know how to treat this,” said Jacques Musavyimana, a former student.
The district and health leaders hope the program will help them see in which areas the virus is most present and can help school leaders make decisions moving forward.
The new approved contract will cost $463,000 and will be paid for through the district's general fund and grant money. The district hopes to grow the program even more and implement it in all its schools.