On Sunday, Rosa Lopez and her family waited four hours for rapid coronavirus tests.
The Lopez children were among about 2,200 people tested Sunday at two Seattle Public Schools clinics for students and staff, according to the district. The mass testing effort will continue at a dozen middle schools around the city on Monday, before school is scheduled to resume Tuesday.
At one of the clinics, at South Shore PreK-8, families bundled up in the cold and drizzle as they waited to access rapid antigen tests.
The situation was a bit chaotic, Lopez said. Kids were hungry after missing lunch while waiting in line, and despite the large turnout, she didn’t see anyone enforce social distancing.
Still, Lopez and her sister waited with their children. Some of their family members tested positive over winter break, and they wanted to make sure their children didn’t contract the virus.
“We try to do our part,” said Lopez, whose son is a fifth grader at Concord International Elementary School. “The best thing to teach during the pandemic to the kids is to look after each other and help each other.”
Seattle Public Schools canceled school Monday to allow for voluntary testing, in response to the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant and concern about potential outbreaks following winter break. The school district identified 139 cases among students and staff during the week leading up to winter break — the highest since the start of school, according to district data.
District spokesperson Tim Robinson said Sunday evening that he did not know how many of the test results were positive, but he said the district may share this information in the coming days. Parents were to receive same-day results through text messages.
On Monday, testing for students will be available at the following schools, from 1 to 4 p.m. unless noted:
- Denny International Middle School
- Eckstein Middle School
- Hamilton International Middle School
- Jane Addams Middle School
- Madison Middle School
- McClure Middle School
- Meany Middle School
- Mercer International Middle School
- Robert Eagle Staff Middle School
- South Shore PreK-8 School (4-8 p.m.)
- Washington Middle School
- Whitman Middle School
Preschool and elementary school students must be accompanied by an adult. Middle and high school students must bring a consent form signed by a parent. Results will be provided in 15 minutes.
The district advises that attendees dress in warm clothes, as they may have to wait outside.
For Tiffany Wood, a single working mom, time is scarce. Because she works during the week, she went to Sunday’s clinic.
“I felt like it was our duty to get tested even though we didn’t have any exposures,” Wood said. “But the design of it was horrible. They should have thought it through better.”
Her two 5-year-olds, who “don’t wait well in lines,” were in one for more than three hours. And Wood said having so many people nearby made it feel like a “super-spreader event.”
District spokesperson Robinson said attendees were told to observe social distancing, which he said he saw while at the clinic. But it was a big turnout, he said, so it’s understandable if parents had concerns.
The district website says that students who need private or quiet spaces to test will be accommodated.
Students will also be able to get tested at their school during the first week of school, or in the evenings at South Shore PreK-8. Meany Middle School will also start offering tests in the evenings starting Wednesday.
If students test positive, they should stay home for at least 10 days, according to the district.
Last month, the school district told parents to be “as ready as possible” for the potential of a temporary shift online. It’s up to individual districts to decide whether to close schools or shift to remote instruction based on outbreaks.
Seattle Times staff photographer Amanda Snyder contributed to this report.