The in-school rapid screening test program will expand to up to 300 schools in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie.
Testing will begin as soon as possible over the coming weeks as rapid testing teams are set up. 440,000 rapid test kits will be distributed to schools, and testing will be offered to up to 220,000 students and staff across Alberta. Teams may also be deployed at a school outside of the four communities when Alberta Health identifies a need at a specific school.
Junior and senior high schools in these communities will be prioritized based on a variety of factors, including the prevalence of COVID-19 in the school and community.
“We are stepping-up our fight against COVID-19 by expanding the rapid testing program in Alberta schools to ensure students, teachers and staff remain safe. Rapid testing in schools offers another layer of protection to our schools," said Jason Kenney, Premier.
“I am pleased to significantly expand on our successful rapid testing pilot in schools to more students and staff in more communities. Rapid test screening is one more tool to limit the spread of the virus in schools and ensure students can keep learning safely from the classroom," said Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education.
“Expanding rapid testing to schools is just the latest example of the leading role we’ve taken in testing throughout the pandemic. It’s another tool to help keep schools opening safely, as part of our commitment to keep Albertans safe while we maintain activities that are important to families and communities," said Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.
“The Calgary Catholic School District is very pleased to see Alberta Education support the expansion of the COVID-19 testing program within our Grades 7-12 student and staff population. Having the ability to quickly identify those staff and students who are asymptomatic, yet who may have COVID-19 or one of the variants allows them to isolate sooner, helping to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus," said Mary Martin, board chair, Calgary Catholic School District.
“This is great news. To date, rapid testing at CBE schools has been well-received by parents, students and staff. We look forward to the expansion to additional schools and grades, to support us in maintaining ongoing in-person learning," said Marilyn Dennis, Board chair, Calgary Board of Education.
“Grande Prairie Public School Division is very appreciative of the efforts of the ministry to be proactive in their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and is fully supportive of the expansion of the rapid testing initiative into our schools," said John Lehners, board chair, Grande Prairie Public School Division.
Provincial officials will work with school authorities to determine which schools will participate. Testing teams will set up at selected schools to screen students and staff who don’t have symptoms and have signed consent forms.
Rapid screening tests may potentially detect the virus quickly in people who don’t have symptoms, allowing them to immediately isolate and limit the spread of COVID-19.
Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve, sustain small businesses, and protect Alberta’s health care system.
- Eight school boards are participating in the expanded rapid testing program: Edmonton Catholic School District, Edmonton Public Schools, Calgary Board of Education, Calgary Catholic Schools, Grande Prairie & District Catholic Schools, Grande Prairie Public School Division, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division and Lethbridge School Division.
- The number of schools where testing is offered may vary each week depending on the size of the school and the time needed to administer the tests.
- Up to 440,000 test kits are available for the program expansion.
- Students and staff who do not have symptoms, and have not been identified as close contacts, can get tested while attending school. Testing is optional.
- Results are available at the school usually within an hour.
- Students and staff who get a positive result after a rapid test will not be able to return to class and will isolate.
- Positive results from rapid tests are considered preliminary and must be confirmed with a lab-based test at an Alberta Health Services assessment centre.