London-area school board turns to volunteers for huge COVID test task

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The London region’s largest school board is appealing to its volunteers to help with a gargantuan task – repackaging rapid COVID tests so they can be distributed to roughly 75,000 back-to-class students.

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The Thames Valley District school board received 145,800 tests Friday afternoon, with 20 tests in each box that need to be repackaged into two tests per baggie – a job board officials estimate will take 1,000 hours, or the equivalent of about five weeks non-stop for one person.

Baggies have been ordered but are not expected to arrive until Monday, and individual labels and instructions will have to be printed. The work will start Tuesday morning, said board chair Lori-Ann Pizzolato.

“They are asking internally for volunteers to help,” she said, adding she and others are pitching in to help out. “I know we’re going to internally separate the kits. I think it’s going to be a lot of work.”

Pizzolato said the task is too much to ask of school boards given the circumstances.

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“Our staff are busy opening schools – that’s what they should be concentrating on,” Pizzolato said. “To give them one more task I don’t think is fair on our system.”

Last week the province announced students will be given two rapid antigen tests each to help monitor for COVID-19 as schools reopen to in-person learning on Monday for the first time since before December’s Christmas break. The reopening is happening amid an ongoing caseload surge provincewide.

Sunday, an estimated 10,450 new cases were identified in the Ontario, with 40 more deaths. At London Health Sciences Centre, per the most recent update, there are 134 patients with COVID.

The province had managed to keep kids in class through the fall until the latest wave of COVID-19 began forcing some schools, including many in the London area, to close before the scheduled holiday break. For the past two weeks, students have been learning remotely from home.

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