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SUSD Superintendent Manny Valenzuela sits to be tested for COVID-19 during a voluntary testing for SUSD year-round staff. 

The Sahuarita Unified School District has tested about half of its 130 year-round staff for COVID-19 as part of its phased reopening plan. 

The free, voluntary PCR tests were offered by the district at the end of May for year round staff, including administrators. Teachers are not year-round staff. 

Superintendent Manny Valenzuela said they view this as a pilot for testing of SUSD staff in future phases of reopening.

“I believe this summer our top priority is working to continue to earn the trust of the community, ensure safety factors and there’s multiple pieces to this,” he said. “From our return to school point of view, first and foremost is to test so we know to the extent that is possible through testing, that staff is healthy.”

Valenzuela said test results are almost all back and there are no positive cases of COVID-19 for any of the about 65 staff members who participated. 

“What we envision is when all employees come back we will be able to offer the same service and opportunity again so we can have data to confirm the employees coming back are healthy,” he said. “If and when someone is sick with symptoms related to COVID-19 we’ll have a quick and effective process to isolate them promptly and appropriately and provide references for appropriate treatment. That individual can be treated or recover and come back when appropriate.”

The testing was provided by United Community Health Center, and Valenzuela said CEO Dr. Rodolfo Jimenez approached the district with the free offer.

“(Jimenez) called up and said they have the ability to do testing and would like to make an impact on the safety of schools,” Valenzuela said. “We’ve always had that working relationship with UCHC and we serve the same community, this (testing) was really an extension of that.”

SUSD did not pay any fees for the testing. There was also no need for participants in the pilot to provide their insurance, though Valenzuela said as their testing program develops there may be an insurance billing component in the future. 

The tests were throat swab diagnostic tests that determine if a person currently has the virus.

The testing opportunity came before a limited number of staff begin to return to the office Monday.

Along with the COVID testing availability, staff returning to work will be required to wear face coverings, will receive temperature checks and will be socially distancing.

The district’s offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Monday through Thursday by appointment-only for guests, and staff working at this time will be able to work a portion of their days from home to limit the number of staff inside the building.

The return of limited staff is only the first phase of SUSD’s reopening and they are continuing to plan the policies for the next phases.

“The process is to approach this move back methodically, slowly and progressively,” he said. “We’re committed to doing whatever it takes and we will continue working all summer long and communicating so people know what's happening.”

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9732