On-campus testing helped prevent outbreak at school

Some juniors quarantined in accordance with school policy after positive test


Owen Akel | The Roundtable

Campus Health Professional Justine Li sits socially distanced from a nurse from PMH Laboratory while Li checks in a parent during coronavirus testing on Feb. 9. Convent & Stuart Hall began offering weekly testing for faculty, students and their families on the Broadway campus in November 2020 and has recently added a second testing day most weeks.

By Owen Akel, Web Editor

A number of juniors quarantined beginning the week of Jan. 25 as a result of a classmate testing positive for the coronavirus. Weekly testing offered by Convent & Stuart Hall helped identify the infected student early so that the school could work to suppress the outbreak.

“I was contacted through the school after my friend tested positive,” junior Asher Thomson said. “The school immediately contacted my family with clear instructions for isolation.”

Thomson quarantined for 10 days after his friend first tested positive.

“Early research and studies showed that frequent testing of a population significantly reduced the risk of outbreaks,” school nurse Katie Coleman said. “Anyone in the community can be tested, which can extend out to family and friends of students, neighbors, and local business owners.”

Coleman says only two other schools in the Bay Area have implemented similarly robust testing programs, estimating Convent & Stuart Hall has administered around 12,000 tests since September.

I was very impressed with the school’s professional and practical management of a situation that is relatively new and experimental.

— Asher Thompson

“I have friends at other schools that receive tests through their school, but from what I hear, their process is less practical and frequent than ours,” Thomson said. “I feel like our school provides some of the most convenient testing in the city.”

The school’s testing system, while robust, is not without flaws, as COVID-19 tests sometimes have delayed return times.

“It has taken up to a week to get the results back, which was aggravating because it somewhat defeats the purpose of getting tested,” junior Zeke Noveshen, who was also exposed to the infected student, said.

The school has begun to work with the testing companies to improve test turnaround time, which both Thomson and Noveshen benefited from during their quarantine.

“Two weeks ago, Agile Force/PMH implemented a barcode system,” Coleman said on Jan. 27. “This has sped up turnaround time by 24 to 48 hours.”

With the help of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the school contained the exposure, with no other COVID-19 cases appearing thus far.

“I was very impressed with the school’s professional and practical management of a situation that is relatively new and experimental,” Thomson said about the school’s response to his exposure.

All students who were quarantined have since tested negative and returned to in-person learning.

“The idea of coming back to in-person school and being around so many students was foreign to me and almost seemed risky,” Thomson said. “With frequent testing, I don’t feel that I have to be concerned for my health as much as before.”