AISD offers COVID tests to staff, students
By Abigail Allen
Aubrey ISD is trying to keep its doors open following the return of students and staff to the school buildings.
With increasing confirmed cases over the past few weeks, Superintendent Dr. David Belding said, the district is paying attention to those trends.
“We’re just going to watch very closely over the next couple of weeks after the Christmas holiday as well as New Year’s,” Belding said. “… That we just want to be very much on focus and ready if we start to see more cases pop up in the community as well as within the population of the school.”
One step the district has taken to keep people on campus has been to offer COVID-19 antigen testing on site.
“This has really helped us move quicker on contact tracing when we have had a positive, but it also helps us when it comes back negative,” Belding said.
Testing is only available for staff and students, he added, not the general public. Belding, Deputy Superintendent Terrie McNabb, CFO Eric Hough and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Shannon Saylor are all certified to conduct the testing. Saylor has been “the one leading that effort,” Belding said.
“Our nurses, we want them to be on campus and focused on the health of the students and staff on campus, and serving them, so we didn’t want to add this to their plate,” he said.
The administration is trying to limit COVID-19 exposure through AISD.
That includes asking students and staff who have a family member with a COVID-19 diagnosis to also stay home and asking them to communicate about that with the district.
“That way we can work through our process and assist the family and get their child either on a remote learning platform or back to campus in a safe manner, following the CDC guidelines when that can happen.
He added that the district is continually looking at the guidelines given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the TEA.
“We are constantly studying the guidelines, and we’re adjusting our practice based on those guidelines,” Belding said.
The different entities working together—AISD, TEA and Denton County—as well as the families of Aubrey ISD students and staff have cooperated well with each other, he added.
The testing offered by the district is paid for and provided through a Texas Education Agency program.
Belding jumped on the chance to bring that to the district as soon as TEA Commissioner of Education Mike Morath discussed it.
“When he began talking about it and gave the website to sign up, I pulled it up immediately while the call was still going and signed up,” Belding said. “I just decided this was something we needed to do, and we would figure out who would implement it after I got us signed up.
“We’re asking a lot of our staff. We’re asking a lot of our students and our families to help us get through this. And I just felt like this was one more thing that we could have in our toolbox.”
Overall, the district has had 72 confirmed cases, with 15 of them listed as active on Wednesday afternoon, including cases confirmed during the break.
Belding also said all but a couple of the cases were likely contracted outside of the district, based on contact tracing.
Although the possibility of having to switch to remote learning is present, AISD is trying to keep students in school and to allow spring activities to continue as much as possible, Belding said.
“We want to protect the school experience for our students and staff as much as possible, and so that means us staying open for face-to-face learning,” Belding said, “Also making sure that our distance learners, their experiences aren’t getting disrupted because we have staff that become ill or we have to transition everybody over.”