WENATCHEE — COVID-19 testing begins today at Wenatchee High School as the Chelan-Douglas Health District tries to gather more data on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and the Wenatchee School District.

The additional data is important to the school district as it seeks to move to a hybrid model for reopening kindergarten-second grade. 

There will be voluntary testing at Wenatchee High School over four days. At the same time, health workers will ask to test randomly selected students in kindergarten through second grade, and their parents.

The school district is seeking to move to hybrid learning for kindergarten, first grade and second grade by mid-October. Hybrid instruction means instruction that is partially at school and partially remote. To prepare for this, the CDHD approached the school district about conducting district-wide random testing. 

“Those students and parents were selected to participate in a COVID-19 testing cycle. We were excited about the opportunity,” Wenatchee Superintendent Dr. Paul Gordon said Monday. “We believe it will give us even better data than even the community-wide survey that starts tomorrow (Tuesday) because it will be really specific to our students and families and the level of COVID within our elementary schools.”

Gordon said, to his knowledge, Wenatchee is one of the few districts in the region, if not the state, to have the opportunity for this level of testing. He said there has been community-wide testing but he has not heard of other districts that have had this level of testing made available to them for staff and a random sample of students and parents.

“It gives our entire community an extra layer of comfort. I am hopeful the numbers come out exceptionally low. Maybe it catches a few people who were asymptomatic,” Gordon said.

Dr. Peter Houck, an epidemiologist who is working with the CDHD, is conducting the testing work, according to Gordon. He said Houck has a significant background in this type of work to make sure the selections were scientifically based and valid.

The role of the school district, Gordon said, was to decide where the testing would take place and to make sure it was part of the communication. Other than that, it is a health district operation.

Community-wide testing is set for 1 to 7 p.m. today through Friday in the Wenatchee High School parking lot. Testing is free and open to the public.

“It is a drive up. My understanding is it is self-administered," Gordon said. People should wear masks, he said and test results should be available within 24-48 hours.

There will also be a round of voluntary testing for school district preschool and elementary staff along with sample testing of kindergarten through second-grade students and families. This happens on today through Thursday. Staff, students, and parents will be provided with self-administered test kits at the schools.

Gordon hopes a lot of people respond to the testing as it will give some reliable data about COVID levels in the community.

“It will tell us the prevalence of COVID in our community, which could allow us to continue planning for hybrid instruction and what does that look like. It’s about bringing our students back into schools,” Gordon said. “From a larger perspective, it’s about maybe opening up businesses a little more — having a deeper understanding of the percentage of COVID in our community.”

Ian Dunn: 662-5167