He noted that a recent survey of district employees found that 88 percent wanted a robust system of testing and tracing. He compared the testing initiative to other broad community efforts that the district has undertaken during the pandemic, such as its provision of more than 50 million free meals.
The testing program, which is expected to cost the district about $150 million, or about $300 per student, will start small with about a few thousand teachers and other district employees, who will be working from sanitized school facilities rather than from home, Mr. Beutner said. Initial testing, to be done at 42 regional school facilities across the sprawling district, will also include about 2,000 children enrolled by employees at school-based day care programs.
After that first round of testing, which Mr. Beutner said was expected to take a few weeks, the district will gradually broaden testing to all employees and students, with a goal in the early phases of establishing a baseline. Student testing will be done at neighborhood schools. Family members who show virus symptoms will also be asked to come in for testing, but the logistics haven’t been determined yet, Mr. Beutner said.
Epidemiologists will determine testing frequency, he said, and initial contact tracing will be done by school employees such as school nurses and bus drivers, who have been idled by the county’s stay-at home order.
Apps developed for the district by Microsoft will be used to manage self-screening, tracking and record-keeping, Mr. Beutner said, and researchers at Stanford, Johns Hopkins and the University of California, Los Angeles will do analysis and epidemiological modeling pro bono. Mr. Beutner said the district would rely on two testing companies to supply and process spit and nasal PCR tests — Clinical Reference Laboratory in Kansas and SummerBio, a small Bay Area start-up that specializes in automated test processing. The district, he said, will be SummerBio’s first customer.
“The opportunity to use testing to get ahead of the virus was missed in January and again in May due to a lack of capacity,” Mr. Beutner said. Now, he added, with students stuck at home, Californians have another chance.
“We must be ready with a robust system of testing and contact tracing so the third time can be the charm,” he said.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eliza Shapiro contributed reporting.