Saskatchewan

Sask. elementary schools running out of rapid COVID-19 tests

Many Saskatchewan elementary schools have received or will soon receive COVID-19 self-testing rapid antigen kits to distribute to students as needed.

Test kits for home use are being distributed this week, but parents said there aren't enough to meet demand

Saskatchewan elementary schools are distributing rapid testing kits for students to use at home. (David Hutton/CBC News)

Elementary schools in Saskatchewan are running out of COVID-19 self-testing kits for home use as soon as they arrive.

The rapid antigen kits are being sent to schools this week for distribution in the province's four biggest divisions — Regina Public Schools, Regina Catholic Schools, Saskatoon Public Schools, and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. But some parents said their schools were not given enough tests. 

Jamie Kirkpatrick said he couldn't get a test for his 10-year-old son, who had a positive COVID case in his class at a Saskatoon public school.

The school told Kirkpatrick it only received 65 kits, but had 206 requests.

"When I spoke with the administration, they said: 'This is what we were given,' and they expect that more will come," he said, adding the school didn't know when more tests would arrive.

"No one seems to have received the amount that they actually need to distribute," Kirkpatrick said.

Veronica Baker, manager of communications and marketing at Saskatoon Public Schools, said the division received "a limited number of test kits" for each of the 51 elementary schools and that they'd be delivered by the end of the day on Tuesday. 

"To ensure kits remain sterile for use, schools have been asking parents/caregivers to pick up kits in person," Baker said in an email. 

A "backpack insert" from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) explaining the program was sent to parents.

Kit has 25 rapid tests

Last week, the Saskatchewan government announced it was developing plans to expand the public distribution of self-tests for personal use, with a new supply of 475,000 self tests to go to elementary schools.

"The program targets households with students age 11 years and under as these students are not yet eligible for vaccination," the government said in a Sept. 29 release.

Parents with children under 12 years old can request a kit, containing 25 rapid tests, from their school, according to the province. 

Derrick Kunz, communications consultant with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, noted that the program is voluntary.

"Kits will only be given if requested," Kunz said in an email. "A family can obtain one kit per family at a time. They can request another when they run out. Our ability to provide kits depends on supply and demand." 

Parents said there aren't enough kits

Saskatoon parents with children in the public school division expressed frustration on social media on Tuesday that schools don't have enough kits.

"They sent 65 to our school that has over 300 families," Amy Smith wrote in a tweet, noting that families who desperately want kits but didn't get there fast enough were out of luck. 

Carla Holinaty, a family doctor in Saskatoon and parent to two children, said their school ran out of tests early Tuesday morning — the first day the kits were distributed to families.

Holinaty said the demand shows parents are trying very hard to keep their kids safe.

"I think it really demonstrates just how fearful a lot of these families are and how desperate they are to try and do anything they can to protect their kids," Holinaty said.

School staff can request more kits from the SHA if they're running low, according to the health authority.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yasmine Ghania is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, currently based in Saskatoon.

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