Believe Circle City’s mobile testing provides students safe in-person return on Monday

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INDIANAPOLIS — In the pandemic era, teachers, like Selina Tillman, are taking on roles they never imagined.

“COVID has definitely shown me to never say never,” said Tillman.

Tillman, who works at Believe Circle City, is administering a different kind of test these days. She’s among the several trained staff members giving out PCR COVID tests to students ahead of next week’s return to the classroom.

“I never saw myself administering health tests to any extents,” she said, “It’s definitely just, I guess, another hat to wear, but I wear it proudly.”

Believe Circle City plans to welcome students and staff, in-person, on January 10th. Students and staff are required to submit a negative PCR test prior to returning.

However, with tests and testing sites limited, the school is working to bring convenience to families through mobile testing.

“It’s been a lifesaver for our community. We’ve been able to catch cases ahead of time,” said Teagan Vonderheit, dean of operations.

The mobile testing is made possible through the Midwest Coordination Center’s “Tested and Protected” program. Through this effort, the school is able to provide PCR tests to students just steps away from their front door. The program comes at no cost to the school or the families it serves.

Staff members, like Tillman, are trained to help administer the tests directly to students. They travel by bus to designated neighborhoods, meeting students outside their home for the quick and easy procedure, an effort that’s been in motion since Wednesday.

“We kind of just call them ahead of time and let them know hey this is the window of time that we’ll be there. We just ask that you please have your scholar ready,” said Vonderheit. “We have them blow their nose, sanitize, they do the test, and then we’re able to securely put it back in the proper tube.”

While it is not required that students do the mobile testing, Vonderheit says they’ve been able to reach about 15% of students through this method. Students can also get their results within 48 hours.

“Some of our families that have been impacted by COVID or just don’t have access to transportation, it was really important for us,” she said, “and we’re grateful that we have the resources to be able to come to them, and get them tested, and make sure that they’re healthy and safe.”

For Tillman, not only does the testing provide convenience, but it also conveys a level of trust with familiar faces administering it.

“We all have different perspectives on COVID in general and testing, and so of course there have been some reluctances,” said Tillman, “but I do think that because we are the school body that they entrust their students to go to every day, it has been easier for us to get parents to cooperate.”

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