Broward County Public Schools releases mandatory COVID-19 testing and health services consent forms

Upon+accessing+any+BCPS+website%2C+visitors+are+prompted+with+a+pop-up+about+COVID-19+testing+forms+and+clinic+consent+forms.+The+COVID-19+testing+form+allows+parents+and+guardians+to+opt+in+or+out+of+symptomatic+student+testing.+The+clinic+consent+form+allows+parents+and+guardians+to+opt+in+or+out+of+clinic+aid.

Upon accessing any BCPS website, visitors are prompted with a pop-up about COVID-19 testing forms and clinic consent forms. The COVID-19 testing form allows parents and guardians to opt in or out of symptomatic student testing. The clinic consent form allows parents and guardians to opt in or out of clinic aid.

Haley Jackson, Section editor

With the start of the 2021-2022 school year amidst a global pandemic, many questions about COVID-19 protocols have arisen. Starting in September, Broward County Public Schools will offer testing, by trained school nurses, to symptomatic students in their school’s clinic. To grant permission to test students, BCPS is asking parents and guardians or students over 18 to fill out the mandatory consent form for optional COVID-19 testing.

Continuing this year, teachers are able to send a student to the office for isolation if they suspect the student is not feeling well or seems out of character. Since many teachers are not certified medical professionals, they can not diagnose students, but only advise they seek medical attention.

After a student is recommended to an isolation room, if their COVID-19 consent form allows, the student will receive a Cue Rapid Test. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School currently has one isolation room that is cleaned by the nurse after each student occupies the space and deep cleaned at the end of each day by custodial staff. Since MSD has one isolation room, there is a chance that there may be more than one student in the room at a time. If this occurs, students will not be within six feet of each other for more than 15 minutes.

Using the Cue Rapid Test allows students to receive their results free of charge due to new grants from the Florida Department of Health, in 20 to 25 minutes. Unlike some COVID-19 tests that swab the upper inner nostril, the Cue Rapid Test is minimally invasive as it only swabs part of the lower inner nostril.

The Florida Department of Education’s 2021-2022 school year’s COVID-19 school protocols. The COVID-19 symptomatic decision tree features a variety of situations and the appropriate responses.

“[Students] are handling [the Cue Rapid Test] well and are not scared,” COVID-19 clinic Nurse Sergeline Delva said. “It does not go all the way up your nostril so it is not something scary. I explain it to them before I do the test just so they can feel better.”

In addition to symptomatic-related testing, the Broward Department of Health will also be conducting “surveillance testing” for select individuals. While “surveillance testing” is not mandatory, it is regularly conducted on individuals who are not showing symptoms of COVID-19 as an effort to manage the asymptomatic spreading of COVID-19. The district has yet to elaborate on exactly how “surveillance testing” is conducted, but does feel it benefits students with higher levels of exposure like those on athletic teams.

Consequently, possible COVID-19 testing in schools has led to many questions about who must quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Once the testing process is completed, the parent will be provided with a letter explaining BCPS Isolation and Quarantine Guidance, and the free COVID-19 Testing Specimen Collection Sites. Upon notice of a student’s positive COVID-19 status, the students’ teachers are contacted by administration and asked to refer to their seating chart to recommend anyone who may have been in close contact with the student.

Current BCPS policy has two seperate avenues to mitigate if a student is notified that they have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If a student is vaccinated against COVID-19 and discloses their vaccination status to the school nurse, they are able to continue attending school if they test negative and show no symptoms. If a student is not vaccinated against COVID-19 or chooses not to disclose their vaccination status, they must partake in a mandatory 10 day quarantine or a 7 day quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19.

On Sept. 22, Governor Ron DeSantis announced emergency rule 64DER21-15, a new Florida Department of Health quarantine policy for students in public schools. Under the new protocol, any student notified of exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, is no longer required to stay home to quarantine or test as long as they remain asymptomatic. With this new rule, DeSantis places the power in parents’ hands to decide whether or not their child should stay home to quarantine or attend school. In addition, the new emergency rule does not require any form of COVID-19 testing or vaccination status for a student to return to school after notified exposure.

BCPS and MSD are trying to avoid placing entire classes in quarantine by following CDC contact tracing guidelines. Current CDC guidelines advise people to quarantine if they are within six feet for longer than 15 minutes with someone who test positive for COVID-19.

BCPS has yet to release a statement regarding whether or not they will be in accordance with Gov. DeSantis’s new emergency rule.

“I believe that the clinic nurse is doing a great job so far. Mrs. Delva is fantastic and really cares about the students that come to see her,” Assistant Principal Jay Milmed said. “We know this can be a strange and uncomfortable time for students who are not feeling well and she makes them feel at home and at ease.”

Going forward, to receive any care at their school clinic, parents and guardians or students over 18, must also complete the mandatory consent form for health services. This form dictates whether or not a student can receive first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation or an automated external defibrillator until emergency medical services arrive. On the form, parents and guardians or students over 18 are able to check boxes to clearly outline what care they do give consent for.

Unlike previous years, parents and guardians or students over 18 must consent to receive clinic aid per a new Florida law.

Both the mandatory consent form for optional COVID-19 testing and mandatory consent form for health services are considered “time sensitive” by the district as well as required for every student. For all MSD students, the COVID-19 testing form and clinic consent form are due on Sept. 30 to their first period teacher.

Beginning on Sept. 13, BCPS resumed offering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations at all middle and high schools, centers, and colleges to students ages 12 and up. To receive their vaccination, students must bring their signed consent form with them to vaccination sites.

For all questions, please contact the Broward Department of Health at 954-412-7300, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.