Starting on January 26, Berkeley High School (BHS) recently implemented an optional COVID-19 surveillance testing plan that aims to test all 3,100 students twice per week.
According to Principal Juan Raygoza, over the first four days of the testing schedule, BHS administered 3,809 rapid tests and identified 22 positive cases. BHS’s surveillance testing schedule, a reaction to the Omicron surge, was put in place to keep students and faculty safe.
Previously, BHS provided COVID-19 testing for individual students solely after school, offering 9th and 12th graders the opportunity to test on Tuesday and Thursday, and 10th and 11th graders on Wednesday and Friday. The schedule, which offered testing after school, caused long lines and conflicted with some students’ after school activities.
Principal Juan Raygoza said surveillance testing was important for keeping the number of cases down and protecting students and faculty at school. He said after school testing was inconvenient for some students and didn’t offer nearly the same effectiveness as the new schedule.
“If we didn’t have this system … would we have detected those seven positive cases?” Raygoza said in response to the identification of seven positive cases on the first day of testing. “They were on campus [and] in class. If we don’t have a system … testing students, how many of those seven students [would] continue to come to school if they’re asymptomatic, and possibly spread COVID-19?”
Students are tested in their English classes, the rationale for this being that English is a mandatory class for every student.
Over the course of the first few days of testing, some classes were not on the testing schedule, including Latinx Literature and some Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) English classes.
Diane Kung, an AMPS English teacher, said there were flaws with the schedule missing some of her classes, but she also discussed the importance of testing and the short time frame in which the plan was put together. Kung said the administration was able to quickly add classes and smooth out the issues.
Students who tested positive were notified, sent home, and received a letter containing instructions for when they could return, precautions they needed to take, and a check-in that they were safe at home.
Natalie Power is a sophomore in Academic Choice (AC) who experienced the new testing schedule in her English class.
“[The third day of testing] was much smoother,” she said. “They were definitely on it. They tested everyone in the class, and I was only out for around five minutes.”
Melissa Jiménez, a Berkeley International High School (BIHS) English teacher, has not needed to make drastic changes to her teaching plans to accommodate this new testing plan. “It’s not a significant disruption right now,” Jiménez said. “When I design my lesson plan, there’s always time in the lesson where students are working on a particular skill or activity. So I am just getting a little creative.”