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The district mandates routine “surveillance testing” for staff, even if they’re not showing symptoms. File photo
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Rancho Santa Fe School focuses COVID-19 testing on staff

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe School District plans to enhance its COVID-19 testing for staff, though broad testing for asymptomatic students remains a bridge too far.

“There’s no state or county mandate to screen asymptomatic students,” Superintendent Donna Tripi told school board members during a presentation at its Dec. 17 meeting. “The mandate is really — and it’s not even a mandate, it is ‘as practical’ — is about the adults on campus.”

Following health official guidance, the district mandates routine “surveillance testing” for staff, even if they’re not showing symptoms, on a two-month rotation. Every two weeks, one-quarter of the staff — including teachers, cafeteria workers, janitors, bus drivers and anyone else who has contact with students — receives a test, administered at county testing sites.

Supplementally, the district requires “re-entry testing” for staff after returning from extended time off, such as Thanksgiving and winter break. Under a contract with the district, U.C. San Diego administers this testing at its sites.

All staff was tested within a week after Thanksgiving, but the school continued as usual during that period, even before all staff was tested or results known. The district amended its contract such that, on the first day back from winter break, UC San Diego clinicians will administer on-campus testing to all staff at one time.

“We think it’s important, after a two-week break, to be able to do that before staff actually start interacting with each other or with students,” Tripi said.

Staff will also receive reentry testing after “Family Week” in February and after spring break.

The board earlier approved district-funded testing for symptomatic staff. That program has been “slow to start,” but will commence after winter break, Tripi said.

The board has approved district-funded testing for students showing symptoms or who’ve been exposed to a positive COVID case at school, at parents’ discretion.

“What has not been approved is student asymptomatic testing,” Tripi said, noting no North County public school district, except Solana Beach, provides such testing.

Rancho Santa Fe school leadership encourages families, if they travel during winter break, to keep their children home voluntarily for 14 days. The district would provide for distance learning during that time.

UC San Diego lacks the capacity to add asymptomatic student testing to its contract with the district. But Tripi will report to the board about potential alternatives at a later date.

She said staff will receive an early-round of COVID-19 vaccines but doesn’t know when. She doesn’t expect students will receive the vaccine for about a year.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Boardmember John Tree said. He asked district families to ‘remain vigilant’ despite ‘fatigue.’ If you travel, please quarantine your children.”

The district has so far approved about $28,000 in General Fund expenditures for testing.

The testing regime supplements the district’s other standing COVID-related health and hygiene protocols. The district has not yet needed to quarantine a whole class or age cohort.

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