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Atlanta Public Schools to begin COVID-19 surveillance testing

They made the announcement at a noon press conference.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Lisa Herring announced on Monday plans to begin COVID-19 surveillance testing within the school district.

The district, in a statement, said the weekly testing will allow them to be proactive and identify the presence of the virus, even in individuals who may be asymptomatic. 

This type of testing generally picks random people in the community. She said the testing among students would not be required, but highly encouraged. Testing among staff and faculty would also be voluntary. They should be able to receive the results within 24 hours, according to the district. 

Herring was joined by the co-founders of Viral Solutions. She said the testing could begin as early as this Friday and said she believes this is the first of its kind at a school district in Georgia. 

The district began a phased approach to in-person learning, with teachers returning to their classrooms for the first time in months last week and students on Monday. 

On Monday, pre kindergarten to second grade students, as well as special needs students, returned. 

While APS said they are doing what they can to keep workers and students safe, some in the community want to see changes made to the plan.

Monday afternoon, a group of about 10 people showed up for a rally where some had signs that read "Please wait for the vaccine" or "Give teachers a choice". 

Herring announced last week the system would slow down its return plan slightly, with 3rd-5th grade students now scheduled to return on Feb. 8, and the remaining 6th-12th grade students on Feb. 16. 

Herring has said "the decision to return to in-person learning, at all, is not an easy one" but that "factors like the vaccine roll-out played a role in the decision." 

“We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe. And, I want our students, teachers, staff, and the APS community to know that I’m listening. I hear your concerns. They haven’t fallen on deaf ears,” Herring said. “But more importantly, I’m acting on your concerns and I continue to evolve our Return+Learn plan with your feedback in mind.”

APS serves nearly 52,000 students across 87 schools.