All students and school-based employees will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing in advance of the return to in-person learning at the territory’s public schools on Jan. 24, the V.I. Education Department announced Monday night.
The Health Department will begin testing groups of students and school-based staff on Wednesday, with both the vaccinated and unvaccinated required to be tested, according to the press release from the Education Department.
A testing schedule will be emailed to students and employees, the department said. Parents may download the COVID-19 testing consent form by visiting www.vide.vi and clicking on the “COVID-19 Forms” tab at the top of the page. COVID-19 testing is free of charge.
The decision was made to implement mass testing due to the territory’s high positivity rate (currently 16 percent), increased COVID-19 hospitalizations territorywide (currently 25), and an increased number of positive cases among VIDE school-based employees, the department said.
Students in grades four through 12 were initially set to return to in-person learning on Jan. 10 for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, but that was postponed due to surging case numbers as the omicron variant hit the territory.
Students in pre-K through third grade have been back in school since Sept. 7, though not without hiccups as COVID-19 outbreaks have caused some brief returns to virtual learning. Special education and career and technical education classes also have been in-person since September.
The department began COVID-19 testing of its School Food Authority workers, custodians, and monitors during the week of Jan. 10-14, Monday’s press release stated. Employees in these categories who did not test will be required to test in the upcoming round.
“The Department of Education is committed to ensuring the health and safety of students and staff as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin said. “We ask that you commit to doing your part to keep the VIDE safe.”
Students ages five and older, and employees who wish to take the COVID-19 vaccine, may visit the community vaccination site on the island on which they reside, the release stated.
To schedule an appointment for a vaccine, call 340-777-8227 or visit covid19usvi.com/vaccines. Walk-ins are also accepted at the territory’s Community Vaccination Centers.
St. Croix’s Community Vaccination Center is located at the Nissan Center in La Grande Princesse, adjacent to the Honda Dealership and The Paint Shop, on the same side of the street as Food Town.
On St. Thomas, the Community Vaccination Center is located at the Community Health Clinic on the second floor of Schneider Regional Medical Center.
On St. John, the Community Vaccination Center is open each Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the V.I. Port Authority Gravel Lot.
To report a suspected case of COVID-19, call 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. For more information, visit covid19usvi.com. For COVID-19 updates, text COVID19USVI to 888777.