Chico school board extends COVID testing

Chico school board extends COVID testing

CHICO — The Chico Unified School District special board meeting got off to a fiery start Wednesday evening at Marigold Elementary School as the Pleasant Valley High School jazz band were slated to play a few songs, including “Happy Birthday” for Secondary and Alternative Education Director John Shepherd, but were not allowed inside the gym unless all meeting attendees were masked.

Attendees were asked by band director Casson Scowcroft and Shepherd to either put on a mask or remain outside while the band played. More than half of the audience refused to don masks and went outside. One audience member angrily told Scowcroft and Shepherd that they were being “ridiculous” for enforcing the mask rule and exited the building.

During public comments, at least 15 parents addressed the school board, both via phone or in person, pleading to the board against vaccinations for district students.

After much discussion and comments, the board of trustees voted to extend the district-wide COVID-19 testing to students who are in a modified quarantine.

“If they qualify for a modified quarantine, that means they have to test. While many of our students have been testing, we also recognize that there are some students who modify quarantine where they come back to school, which might not be an option if their parents don’t have the ability to get them to a testing center,” said district Superintendent Kelly Staley.

Students who are unvaccinated and were in contact with someone who tested positive can either stay home from school for 10 days before coming back, or be tested twice weekly and return to campus during the 10-day quarantine.

Left to right, Chico Unified School District board members Caitlin Dalby, Vice President Kathleen Kaiser, President Eileen Robinson, Clerk Tom Lando and Matt Tennis meet Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 at Marigold Elementary School in Chico, California for a special board meeting (Jennie Blevins/Enterprise-Record)

Every school in the Chico Unified School District will have voluntary COVID-19 testing sites. There will be a schedule for each school. For example, Chico and Pleasant Valley high schools have three weekly options to test. There are two weekly options at all three junior high schools and at Fair View High School. Every elementary school will have a weekly opportunity.

Having testing on school sites will be convenient for parents to have their kids tested if they are not able to go to other designated testing sites, Staley said. This will get students back in the classroom quicker.

District-wide testing has only been available to unvaccinated staff members up till now.

The testing is provided by the California Department of Public Health, along with Primary Health, and is available to all enrolled CUSD students. The California Department of Public Health will decide the duration and funding of the program, according to Erica Smith, coordinator of community relations. School volunteers can participate in the testing if they decide to.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a public health order that requires all staff, coaches, volunteers and adults on K-12 campuses to be fully vaccinated or perform weekly COVID-19 testing. The order does not allow for any exceptions or exemptions for adults.

To align with the order, unvaccinated volunteers can provide a COVID-19 rapid antigen test or PCR test taken at an approved testing site or employer testing site that provides printed verification. Home testing is not accepted. The test must be completed within the seven day window before volunteering.

To learn more about quarantine options for on-campus close contact exposure visit

The board also listened to King Consulting President Jamie King-Iseman and Director Rob Murray, who gave the first hearing on draft maps. The second hearing on draft maps will be held Nov. 17 after incorporating feedback from the first hearing.

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