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'It's very quick, efficient' | Escondido schools take COVID testing into their own hands to address need, absences

The Escondido Union School District planned and created its own central COVID-19 testing site at its headquarters, after the omicron surge showed a need.

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — The Escondido Union School District is running an operation of their own, hoping to keep students in class.

At the peak, a COVID testing site at their headquarters tested 800 people in one day. Most of those are students, teachers, and their families in the Latino-heavy district.

"When we returned from winter break, that first Monday back, we arrived to our testing center which used to be right in front of our offices and we had a line that was all the way through our parking lot, down the road, into oncoming traffic," said Dr. Luis Rankins-Ibarra, EUSD Superintendent.

That visual is what he says showed them a need that pushed them to work. 

After three days of planning, the site opened.

"It's very quick, efficient," mom Cecilia Galvez said, as she brought her son through for testing. "It was much easier, I don't have to be waiting for results for days and its much more convenient."

Nearly 80% of students in the Escondido Union School District identify as Hispanic and or Latinos. The testing is an inherent service to them and their families, and the community as a whole.

"We have employees that are coming everyday just for an antigen test," said Ibarra. "They get ready, they're dressed for work, and they're just coming here."

That cuts out a testing middle-man, as the District tries to plug the holes left by teacher absences. 

An internal dashboard shows how many teachers are out on any given day, because of COVID-19 or other reasons. 

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Dr. John Albert, says they saw 300 teacher absences in one day, at the peak of the omicron surge.

"We're looking at these on a daily basis and what we do is we have a contingency plan set up," Dr. Albert explained.

That plan puts a certificated teacher in every classroom each day. Sometimes, that means the superintendents themselves are teaching class.

"Our main priority is keeping the doors open to learn every single day," said Albert. "If we don't have a qualified teacher in the classroom, learning's not happening."

Superintendent Dr. Ibarra says the testing site at the district will stay open as long as there's a need for it.

In the meantime, vaccination rates among Latinos are high, and the focus is now on getting the community boosted.

"Latinos in San Diego County actually have a pretty high vaccination rate compared to the rest of the country," said Chicano Federation CEO Nancy Maldonado. "This didn’t happen without a lot of effort from a lot of different groups, so we’re really proud of the work that’s been done."

San Diego County data shows 29.6% of Hispanics/Latinos are fully vaccinated, second to White San Diegans. Meantime, the latest data shows Hispanics/Latinos have the current highest infection rate, with 44.8% of the population.

Testing at the Escondido Union School District offices is open Monday - Friday, from 7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. for employees, and 8 a.m. - 3:45 p.m. for students and their family members in their households.

The District is also hosting vaccine clinics during weekdays and Saturdays.

Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.:

  • February 5: Oak Hill Elementary
  • February 12: Central Elementary
  • February 19: Mission Middle
  • February 26: Oak Hill Elementary


  • 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. February 28 at San Pasqual High
  • 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. March 1 at Orange Glen High
  • 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. March 2 at Escondido High
  • 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. March 3 at Del Lago Academy
  • 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. March 4 at Valley High

WATCH RELATED: Pfizer asks FDA to authorize COVID-19 shots for kids under 5 (February 2022)

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