School is happening. On the surface, it might look just like the start of any other year — students slump into early-morning classes, chat in the cafeteria with classmates, and cheer on their team at fall football games.
But despite our best intentions and highest hopes, school isn’t back to normal this year. The Delta Variant, nearly twice as transmissible as the original virus, looms large over our safe return to school.
In the last week of September, children made up more than a quarter of all cases of COVID nationwide. But we’re doing everything we can to keep school in session — and in person — around our region.
Testing is an important tool in keeping our communities safe. In March 2021, Capital Region ESD 113 established a drive-thru testing co-op serving the ESD and North Thurston, Olympia, Tenino, and Tumwater school districts.
“We were able to work with the largest districts in our region to establish a central, convenient location for testing,” Deputy Superintendent Cal Brodie shared. “We’ve kept potential COVID-19 outbreaks out of our schools and provided comfort to families who needed tests for their students.”
Since March, the ESD has provided more than 2,000 tests to local students and staff. More than half of those tests were performed in September.
Roughly 10 percent of all tests are positive, but “this is a precaution that families need to take,” COVID Testing Tech Dawsyn Holt said.
Holt, alongside Rob Neff, has been with the testing co-op from day one.
“When we first started, we had maybe 15 or 20 people a day,” Holt said. “It’s lucky that it was so slow, because it gave us time to figure out what we needed to do to help people.”
“When Cal hired us for the job, he said one line to us that I think has stuck with us through every day: ‘There are no experts in what you two are about to do. I can only trust that you will go out there and figure out what you can to be the experts that ESD needs. There will be mistakes made, but I know you will do your best to help the people of this Co-op.’”
“Everything Cal said was right on the mark. We have had technical difficulties, shipping errors, we completely changed what type of testing we do, and one day we even ran out of test kits. Every day is a learning experience for us out there, but we are happy to help ensure that kids get to go back to school.”
Holt and Neff support families through all stages of the testing process. When families have arrived without pre-registering their student, they’ve walked them through the process to make sure they could still access a test.
When non-English-speaking families have struggled to navigate the registration system, they’ve sought resources and interpreters to make sure all families were able to access same-day testing.
“We have an amazing team focused highly on service,” Brodie said. “They’ve made sure that everyone who shows up is able to get tested.”
Staff and students at ESD 113 and North Thurston, Olympia, Tenino, and Tumwater school districts are eligible to receive COVID testing at ESD 113. Learn more about our testing co-op and pre-register for a test at esd113.org/covid.