La Crosse area schools unable to provide rapid COVID-19 tests for the time being

Leaders say the Wisconsin DHS has not been able to supply vendors with antigen tests due to shortage of testing kits

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse area schools are no longer able to provide certain types of COVID-19 testing for the time being.

Throughout the pandemic, schools have relied heavily on rapid (or antigen) COVID-19 testing to prevent kids from learning at home.

“It allowed us to be able to keep a lot of kids in school,” School District of La Crosse director of student services Aimee Zabrowski said. “It’s been highly successful…It’s disappointing that that testing option is not available.”

In a letter to families Monday night, La Crosse school leaders said the district will not provide rapid testing at any of its facilities until further notice.

“The DHS has not been able to supply our local vendor with antigen tests at this time,” Zabrowski said.

This is because of the surge in cases and the lack of testing supplies.

Zabrowksi says last week, the district did more than 500 rapid tests.

Antigen test results sometimes come back in as soon as 15 minutes.

“We go through a lot of rapid tests on any given day,” Zabrowski said.

The lack of antigen testing supplies is just not affecting La Crosse schools. It’s hurting several schools in the area, including Tomah, West Salem, and Holmen.

They still have PCR lab tests available, which are more reliable. But because of high demand, it may take several days to get results back.

“And that’s important, because whenever we have the opportunity to have kids back at school, we want them back as soon as possible,” School District of Holmen director of safety & student services Matt Meyers said.

Despite the loss of rapid testing, Meyers says there are no plans to move to virtual learning.

“We’ll just rely on some of our protocols to keep students here and in-person,” Meyers said.

Zabrowski is urging students and parents to stay healthy especially right now, when schools have limited supplies to rely on.

“We know that this change is frustrating,” Zabrowski said.

Zabrowki says she does not know when the district will be able to provide rapid COVID testing again.

If a La Crosse student is a close contact while at school and is asymptomatic, they do not need to show proof of a negative test for now. They can return to school on day six if they are still showing no symptoms.

The letter says unvaccinated students who are a household contact or any student experiencing symptoms needs to show proof of a negative test to come back to class.

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