NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Public Education Department has been asking parents to enroll their children in COVID-19 surveillance testing but many are not doing it. The state is hopeful that will change soon.
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The state is requiring school districts to offer student surveillance testing with the goal of testing 25% of students a week. It’s an opt-in program for families and so far, schools are having a hard time with participation.
“I have not seen a district meet that overall 25% goal yet,” said Greg Frostad, director of the Safe and Healthy Schools Bureau with the Public Education Department. “But as I mentioned, our goal also for student-athletes is 25% a week and we’re seeing that exceeded by some districts.”
For the state, student surveillance testing is a way to potentially detect asymptomatic cases at schools and get insight into community spread there. PED says last week, districts tested on average less than 1% of their students and charter schools, who often have smaller student populations, tested about 2.5% of its students.
The PED says one big challenge is the availability of testing and demand on the testing systems across the state. It also says testing numbers vary across schools based on what area of the state they’re in and their student population. Their hopeful numbers will improve soon thanks to a $63 million federal grant.
“Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see many more options available for school districts to test including on-site options and that’s really what we’re missing right now is those on-site options where the school has direct access to a student,” said Frostad.
Eighty-five percent of that $63 million grant is going to help schools offer a testing program. A large part of that grant money is going to help schools offer a testing p program. So far, 62 schools have registered for that program helping more than 30,000 education staff and more than 184,000 students get tested.
Rio Rancho Public Schools has only had 11 students submit their surveillance testing results over the last three weeks. Santa Fe Public Schools didn’t have testing numbers but said it did register with the state to bring on-site testing to students and staff. KRQE News 13 also reached out to Albuquerque Public Schools for testing numbers but did not hear back.