SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A Memphis public charter school has figured out the equation for staying open safely during the pandemic.
Promise Academy is one of the few area schools offering regular COVID-19 testing and staff say they haven’t had any cases among its students.
“As hard as we all are trying with virtual, using best practices, we need kids in school so we are hopeful that we can increase our numbers while keeping everyone safe and testing is a huge part of that,” said Dr. Patrick Washington, Principal of Operations at Promise Academy.
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The school reopened its two campuses with a hybrid model in August and staff are teaching about 200 students in person and the rest at home.
Dr. Washington said they’ve been testing students and staff every eight days thanks to a partnership with the City of Memphis, using federal CARES Act funding to provide free regular testing.
Some parents have gotten their students tested multiple times and others are getting their child tested for the first time through the school.
“She’s learning somewhere away from me so she’s going to be around other people so better to keep her and other people safe,” said Promise Academy parent Valecia Thompson. “She comes home, goes to visit other people you don’t want to bring anything home, so just get it out the way, make sure she’s safe.”
Washington said on average they’ve tested about 60 students and staff during the previous testing periods. But he said they have the capacity to do much more and they want to increase that capacity to 200 students and staff between both campuses.
Washington said they haven’t had any positive tests among students, with one staff member testing positive.
He said it’s critical that more parents get their students tested.
“We’re expecting to bring more students after fall break and increase our numbers by at least 20 students per campus and ultimately if we can continue to do this safely, it’s a possibility we can make another increase in the spring if we don’t have a safe vaccine by that time,” said Washington.
Promise Academy also offers free COVID-19 tests for students who are participating in virtual learning.
Dr. Washington said they’re getting results back within one to two days and in some cases, even sooner.
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