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Iowa school districts vary on approaches to COVID-19 testing in buildings

The largest district in the state, Des Moines Public Schools, just announced a new partnership with Nomi Health to offer coronavirus testing at two locations.

DES MOINES, Iowa — In late December 2020, Congress passed a bill to fund COVID-19-related expenses for thousands of school districts across the country. One of the expenses allowed under the law is on-site district coronavirus testing.

COVID testing for staff and students in Iowa has been on a district-by-district basis.

On Thursday, Des Moines Public Schools announced it would be opening two drive-thru testing sites in October. DMPS partnered with Nomi Health, a health care company coordinating virus testing and vaccination across the country. 

The Utah-based company was contracted with the state of Iowa at the beginning of the pandemic to help with mass testing efforts.

Since the start of the new school year, many Iowa parents have been asking for better access to testing for their unvaccinated children as they return to the classroom with fewer mitigation efforts than the previous year.

Pharmacies have been booked solid with testing appointments. Iowans can also use the free option through Test Iowa to get a coronavirus test.

At-home test kits are available by ordering online or picking up at a designated site, but often the results take several days to come back from the State Hygienic Lab.

West Des Moines Community School District Superintendent Lisa Remy told the school board earlier this week the district had reached an agreement with the state to begin ordering the at-home test kits through Test Iowa.

Students will be prioritized to get the test kits. The district is allowed to order 50 per order, but can place an unlimited number of orders. More than 9,500 students attend West Des Moines Schools.

According to state officials, the restriction of 50 test kits per order is for logistical reasons.

Winterset School District Superintendent Justin Gross told Local 5 it does not currently offer coronavirus testing on-site for students and staff.

The district office for the Waukee Community School District is a Test Iowa pick-up and drop-off test kit site. A district spokeswoman said anyone, including staff and families, can pick up a test kit. 

Waukee does not currently offer on-site coronavirus testing, and districts are not required to offer it.

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WATCH: Following CDC advisory, Des Moines doctors urge pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccine 

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