Ministry of Education providing rapid COVID-19 screening kits to all students

Rainbow District School Board

SUDBURY – Following through on a province-wide Ministry of Education (MOE) initiative, the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) has informed all parents of students within the board that rapid antigen testing kits are being provided to all students to use, on a voluntary basis, during the winter break. This is a province-wide initiative through MOE. 

In a letter to parents/guardians dated December 8, Bruce Bourget, RDSB director of education wrote, “the Ministry of Education is providing rapid antigen screening kits to all students in Ontario to use during the winter break. The goal is to detect any potential cases of COVID-19 in asymptomatic students, regardless of vaccination status, before they return to in-person learning when classes resume on January 3, 2022. The testing is another measure to keep everyone safe.”

The Ministry of Health also endorsed the use of these tests by parents/guardians for their children at home. 

Students are not required to complete the testing in order to return to the classroom after the winter break. They are also not required to submit results.

“The rapid antigen test kits will be distributed to students in Rainbow schools on Friday, December 10,” said Mr. Bourget. “Your child’s participation in rapid antigen screening is voluntary.”

“If your child is absent (on December 10), please call the school if you would like to arrange to pick up a testing kit.”

For students who choose to use the rapid antigen screening kit, it is recommended students conduct the rapid antigen tests every three to four days over the holiday break, on every Monday and Thursday beginning December 23, until all five tests have been used, the RDSB letter continues.

Rapid antigen screening kits are only to be used when a child is asymptomatic (does not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and has not had any exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19).

Anyone with symptoms, or who is identified as a close contact of a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19, should still get PCR testing. Rapid antigen screening tests should not be used as a substitute for PCR tests for people with symptoms or for people who are close contacts of confirmed cases.

It was explained that the BTNX rapid response can be performed using anterior nasal swabbing (per the package insert, as approved by Health Canada) or by using deep nasal swabbing (as recommended by Public Health Ontario, given higher sensitivity compared to anterior nasal swabbing). Both types of specimen collection can be performed using the NP swab provided with the kit.

It is also explained that once the test is done, “you will know the outcome of the test within 15 minutes. If test results conducted so far are negative, your child may attend school as usual,” the school board letter says. And “even if your child tests negative, they should continue to follow all relevant public health guidance, such as guidance on gathering, distancing, and masking.”

A positive result on a rapid antigen screening test is considered a preliminary positive. A child that receives a positive result on a rapid antigen screening test should seek a confirmatory PCR test as soon as possible (ideally within 48 hours) at a local testing site or pharmacy that offers testing and isolate themselves until the result of that confirmatory PCR test are known, the letter continues.

“On behalf of Rainbow schools, I would like to thank you for your ongoing patience as we continue to work together to keep everyone safe,” wrote Mr. Bourget. “Please accept our best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.”