Over 200 individuals were tested on Saturday, September 19, at a mobile testing event offered by the EISD community organization EanesSTRONG.
Online PR News – 21-September-2020 – Austin, TX – Eanes Independent School District (EISD), a small school district on the southwestern outskirts of Austin, TX, entered into its next phase of returning students to buildings on Monday, September 21.
The testing event came ahead of the return of more than 2,000 additional students to its nine campuses. Parents were given the option to return to in-building learning or remain in remote learning, which commenced on September 8. Approximately 52% of the district’s 8,200 students opted for in-person learning.
The district’s anticipated in-building attendance necessitated the return of most teachers to in-building instruction, with few exceptions for medical conditions that make teachers more vulnerable to COVID-19. Several parents and teachers expressed concern for risk carried by in-person learning with community positivity rates still hovering around 7%.
Volunteers for EanesSTRONG organized the event in partnership with Family Hospital Systems (FHS) to provide convenient, drive up COVID-19 testing outdoors at the Westlake Athletic Community Center in Westlake. Tests were free of charge to anyone of any age, with the presentation of a valid insurance card.
The CARES Act, enacted by Congress in April, legislates that insurance companies must cover the test at 100%. Regardless of symptoms, members of the public could make an appointment through the Family Hospital Systems website to ensure a spot, or could show up without an appointment to be tested. Tests were performed through car windows by FHS staff.
“Lines were steady throughout the day - it started at noon and really never slowed down all day even after the end time,” said EanesSTRONG Co-Founder Kim Allen. “We don’t have a final count yet (as of Monday September 21) but we know it exceeded 200 people. It just blew us away. Clearly the interest is there for a regular testing plan in our community to contain the COVID virus and allow students, teachers and staff to attend school safely,” Allen added. “There is no reason why we can do what UT and Rice are doing in terms of testing on a grassroots level,” Allen added.
COVID-19 testing was one of three community projects that EanesSTRONG initiated since its formation in late August. The group challenged its members to raise $1,000 for the Eanes Education Foundation (EEF) to commemorate its 1,000th member in late August, resulting in a surprise final tally of $40,780 benefitting EEF.
This week EanesSTRONG concludes a gift card drive benefiting EISD custodians, cafeteria staff, and maintenance staff. The effort is aimed to thank EISD staff that aren’t traditionally covered by booster organizations. As of Monday, over $3,000 in $10 HEB gift cards had been collected.
The group, which began as a private Facebook group, is developing a website and maintains a social media presence on Twitter and Instagram. The Facebook group remains the primary communication vehicle, with approximately 1,500 members and a virtual combined reach of close to 3,000 weekly.
Formed In the weeks leading up to the return of students to buildings, EanesSTRONG lists “integrity, grit, and compassion” as its tenets. The group describes itself as supporting community unity and staff morale, as well as serving as a catalyst to support schools.
“EanesSTRONG has been just what EISD staff and parents alike have needed in a challenging time,” said EISD teacher Robyn Post. “Parents have rallied around teachers with loving support, and teachers have an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas,” she added. “We have come together as a community to lift one another up.”
EanesSTRONG founders describe their union as a “heart” project. “We wanted to provide a haven for those who wanted to focus on being positive and exhibiting compassion in a crisis,” said Christie Schultz, Co-Founder of EanesSTRONG. “This group is a beacon of hope- a true saving grace,” wrote an anonymous EISD staff member via the group’s Staff Sentiments Submission series which published often emotional accounts of staff working long hours in a difficult environment over the past month.
EanesSTRONG says that it hopes to soon share the statistics from the testing run over the weekend, and hopes to work with EISD to offer more free mobile testing events to help identify COVID-19, keep students and teachers safe, and keep schools in session without disruptions.