JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene on Wednesday announced a partnership that will allow the school district to offer free rapid testing for district employees.
The $1.5 million project will also provide additional 25 nurses to the district as it prepares to welcome students back to campuses. The city is contributing $750,000 for the project, Curry said.
“We will have seven locations at seven high schools in our district for each board member district,” Greene said. “Teachers, if they meet the criteria with symptoms, they immediately will be directed to a location. That nurse will give them the test and we will have the results back within 24 hours. That will allow us to be able to make decisions be able to support that teacher in the classroom or that employee as quickly as possible.”
Greene said the money will also be distributed to charter schools in Duval County.
Duval County students will return to schools Thursday for the first time since March when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a parent, I understand the anxiety and stress many families are facing as kids head back to the classroom amidst this pandemic. In fact, my children head back to public school tomorrow alongside many of yours,” Curry said.
Jacksonville City Council Member Brenda Priestly-Jackson worked with the city to get the project done, Curry said Wednesday.
If a teacher or staff member feels sick, they call ahead and now at seven high schools, there will be drive-thru testing just for them to be tested quickly.
Depending on the outcome of that 24-hour test there are protocols now in place they will follow to inform those who may have been exposed.
For now, this testing does not involve students, but Curry and Greene said parents can take their kids to any of the public sites in Jacksonville.
Terrie Brady, who leads the Duval teachers union, wants the district to help students, too.
“My other concern right now was making sure we can do something for the parents with the students who possibly might need testing and they have no insurance or ability to get that done,” Brady said.
Brady said parents and students can expect a lot of changes as the school year progresses.
“I think everybody needs to exhale,” she added. “It is your health and I want them to know that a lot of people out there really care about everybody’s health and well-being, whether their employees or students.”
According to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health, there were 130 new cases as of COVID-19 and Duval County 232 deaths.
“However, the daily percent positive tests and Duval County has dropped to 4.2%,” Curry said. “My team and I continue to have regular contact with our area hospitals. They are reporting 292 COVID related hospitalizations in Duval County, and all report available capacity. Administrators tell me they are encouraged by the latest data.”