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Atlanta Public Schools mandates COVID-19 testing for sports teams, extracurricular activities

If students do not consent to surveillance testing twice a week, they will not be able to participate in extracurricular activities.

ATLANTA — Kids on sports teams at Atlanta Public Schools are now required to have mandatory COVID testing.

According to a statement from a school district spokesperson, the school system has is now requiring all students participating in athletics and other extracurricular activities to agree to surveillance testing, twice a week. 

“I think that it’s a great way to keep the athletes safe, the coaches safe, the other teams safe, the fans safe, and a great way to let the sports continue," APS parent Jenny Richman said. “I think we have to just accept that it may not look how it did in the past but deep down, I think we all want the same things. So if we have to make a few adjustments here and there, I think it’s worth it to get the kids what they used to have."

The school district is planning to maintain this new protocol "as long as the community spread level remains in the 'high' category."

Students in after school arts activities related to coursework in one of their classes are not required to participate in surveillance testing. The school district said an example of this is an evening band concert.

However, district leaders said this new testing mandate does apply to children involved in activities not associated with class, like after school drama club or chorus.

"The protocol applies to students at all grade levels," the district said.

If students do not consent to surveillance testing twice a week, they will not be able to participate in the extracurricular activities like athletics and others.

"State law allows local school districts to impose additional requirements for participation in extracurricular activities, including safety requirements," The district stated. 

Up until this point, testing has been voluntary for students. However, staff have been required to participate in surveillance testing since September. APS also has a 'Test to Stay' policy in place which allows those who are not fully vaccinated and have been exposed to COVID-19 to continue to learn in the classroom, as long as they test negative.

Earlier this week, the CDC recommended schools cancel activities like football and wrestling, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. The CDC also labeled activities with singing, shouting, and exercise as 'high risk.'

However, those recommendations drew criticism from some parents and one local health expert.