California Senator Wants Schools to Develop COVID Testing for All Students

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Governor Gavin Newsom said that on Monday, the state will find out when health officials will give students the green light to take their masks off in the classroom. 

But one state lawmaker says there’s one pandemic-related policy that districts shouldn’t let go of and that’s regular COVID testing.

In fact, State Senator Dr. Richard Pan wants to make it law.

“Schools need to know what’s going on in schools and so do the parents!” he said.

The licensed pediatrician wants to require every school in the state to develop a COVID testing plan for students. Under the bill, pre-schools, after-school programs and day care centers would also have to come up with a long-term testing plan.

“Without a testing plan, schools risk high numbers of teachers becoming positive and having to close schools because of staffing shortages,” he said.

The Berkeley Unified School District was one of the first districts in the Bay Area to provide free weekly testing for all students and handed out take-home test-kits before the winter break.

“We don’t know what’s coming next month, we don’t know what’s coming throughout the next year, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it's that we have to be ready,” said Ana Vasudeo, who sits on Berkeley’s school board 

But where will the funding come from? And can the state guarantee that all schools will have enough staff to administer the tests?

“That’s the thing that I think is hard to legislate – is where do you get the people from, because we all know that schools are going through and still having staffing shortages,” said Michelle Smith McDonald of the Alameda County of Education.

Spring break is not too far away – and that means schools are going to have to come up with another back-to-school testing plan. According to the Alameda County Office of Education, those free take-home test kits from the federal government are accounting for a lot of the available supply.

“We heard anecdotally about some districts that put in orders for tests and they were pulled back because those orders went to the federal government,” said McDonald.

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