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Tulsa schools partner with nonprofit for rapid COVID-19 test results

Tulsa schools partner with nonprofit for rapid COVID-19 test results

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Covid testing (copy)

A doctor puts a sample into a vial while doing a COIVD-19 test at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in December.

Tulsa Public Schools will be partnering with a nonprofit to track and relay rapid COVID-19 testing results.

At a special board meeting Monday afternoon, the board voted 5-2 to enter into an agreement with Project Beacon to provide a HIPAA-compliant data platform for the district’s rapid COVID-19 test results. Once it launches, the platform will be able to provide direct notification to employees or, in the case of secondary students, their parents about test results.

The district’s current testing provider, BinaxNOW, does not have the capacity to provide such a platform.

“Our team has been working on this (rapid testing) for a while and the purpose was not to be diagnostic for individuals, but to help us identify asymptomatic cases within the district to keep people safer and avoid situations where we don’t notice an outbreak until people have symptoms,” Superintendent Deborah Gist said.

“Our team discovered that the ability to use the information effectively to identify those situations and the need for us to protect students’ data at the same time meant that a laborious, manual process would be necessary.”

The agreement comes on the recommendation of the Tulsa Health Department as part of its collaboration with the district. The associated costs are covered as part of a THD grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

As of Monday, about 400 secondary students and 2,000 school-based employees have opted in to TPS’ random rapid testing program. During discussion, district officials reiterated multiple times that participation in the testing program is strictly voluntary.

“No child will be tested without parental consent,” Gist said.

Jennettie Marshall, one of the two board members who voted against the agreement, balked at the idea of taking such an action at a special meeting where the community could not provide input.

“My phone has been blowing up all day,” she said. “If mine has been, I’m betting others have been getting calls, too. It is problematic for us to vote on something when we have an outcry like that within our community. This needs to be put on a regular meeting agenda so public can voice their thoughts, have more time to express their thoughts.

“We can have best intentions in the world, but that can be misinterpreted when the constituents’ voices are left out.”

Related video: Tulsa-area teachers get COVID vaccinations

Tulsa teachers get their vaccines by the Tulsa Health Department at the Tulsa Expo center. STEPHEN PINGRY/ Tulsa World

Q&A: State vaccination portal help and other guidance as rollout expands to teachers, those with comorbidities


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I am a third-generation graduate of Oklahoma State University and a board member for both Oklahoma SPJ and the Native American Journalists Association. When not chasing stories, I'm usually chasing my children or our pets.

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