COVID-19. (CDC)

COVID-19. (CDC)

School district receives CDC grant for COVID testing

The $1.3 million awarded to the district through the grant is in addition to a third round of ESSER funds.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District received a $1.3 million grant offered through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be used for COVID-19 testing in schools. According to grant guidance published by the CDC, $10 billion was put toward the program under the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, which was signed into law earlier this year.

“A key goal of this initiative is to establish screening testing programs in schools around the country in April 2021, extending through the end of the school year and into summer activities and subsequent school year, as funds allow,” the guidance says.

KPBSD Finance Director Elizabeth Hayes said Wednesday that the $1.3 million awarded to the district through the grant is in addition to a third round of ESSER funds, but that the district is still working to determine how those grant funds will be used. Funding for both programs comes from ARPA.

The award comes as the district undergoes sweeping staffing changes, including among district administration. Former KPBSD Nursing Supervisory Iris Wertz, who helped lead the district’s response to the COVID pandemic, retired at the end of the 2020-2021 school year and will be replaced by Melisa Miller, a KPBSD nurse in Homer.

According to a draft mitigation plan submitted by the district to the state in June, COVID-19 testing capability and training has already been provided for the district’s 42 schools and antigen screening is available to students and participants in co-curricular activities.

“All positive results are immediately verified by a molecular test,” that plan says. “The district has both Cue and Abbott ID Now devices available at each site.”

That plan also outlines changes the district plans to make to their COVID-19 mitigation protocols for the 2021-2022 school year, including lifting a mandatory masking requirement, offering flexible learning plans and bolstering mental health resources. The plan says the district will follow CDC guidance on masking requirements and will continue to share information about local COVID-19 vaccination clinics with the KPBSD community.

The mitigation plan, which is required by the state in order for KPBSD to receive its third round of federal funding, is subject to review every six months.

More information about KPBSD’s COVID-19 policies can be found on the district’s website at kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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