MPS parent takes exception to student self-swab COVID-19 testing

Milwaukee Public Schools will begin testing students and staff for COVID-19 next week.

Ten percent of each school will be randomly tested for COVID-19 every other week. The process to do that is part of the reason one parent at Parkside School is keeping her child home for now.

5-year-old Robyn Guiden isn't a big fan of the camera. 

"She’s a little camera shy, which is another issue that we have with virtual learning," said Amelia Peace, Robyn's mother.

Despite the challenges of virtual learning, Peace is choosing to keep her daughter home. The mandatory COVID-19 testing is one of the reasons she isn't returning to school in person.

"For Robyn, she has ADHD as well as autism and she’s nonverbal," Peace said. "With occupational therapy her being able to hold utensils and stuff of that nature, she still struggles with, I am not sure if she’ll be able to hold it steadily or follow the instructions of inserting or whatever the procedure would be."

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MPS said pool testing works as follows:

  • Each child is given something like a Q-tip to swab their own nose
  • Up to 25 of those Q-tips are put into a tube
  • The rube is sent off for testing
  • If any of those Q-tips have a positive test result, the entire class goes virtual for 14 days

District administration said all in-person students -- including those with disabilities -- will be expected to participate.

"Students with autism can follow directions just as any other student can. Students with disabilities who can be shown directions or walk-through the self-administration of the test will be offered with them as well," said Jennifer Mims-Howell, MPS acting chief of academics. "With students that cannot self-administer, that’s a different conversation. We will deal with that on a case-by-case basis."

Amelia Peace with her daughter, Robyn

Peace understands the importance of safety but hopes the district will make exceptions.

"I don’t think they’re taking these things lightly, but I do think a lot of consideration is being overlooked when it comes to the autism community and children with special needs," Peace said.

MPS administration said if a parent does not consent to having their child tested, they will look at moving that child back to virtual learning. If a staff member does not consent, they could face disciplinary action.


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