Pop Quiz! Random COVID-19 testing for WCHS students


Photo by Jeremy Fredricks.

Students wait in line for COVID-19 screening testing on Dec. 7. Students were randomly-selected to particpate in the testing, which MCPS recently rolled out at all schools.

By Jeremy Fredricks, Editor-in-Chief

On Nov. 16, WCHS senior Kaveh Farahifar was handed a yellow piece of paper by his English teacher. Feeling a sense of curiosity while looking at the paper, he realized that he was one of about two dozen WCHS students selected to participate in the random COVID-19 testing being rolled out by MCPS.

On Sept. 21, MCPS announced that it was expanding “screening tests” to all grade levels to limit the number of students in quarantine. Once a parent or guardian consents to the free testing, students have the possibility of being selected for the weekly, randomized testing.

“The experience was straightforward and fairly fast,” Farahifar said. “It was during my English class and we were just reading so the timing was fortunate for me.”

WCHS junior Jaime Calhoun was also randomly-selected for the Nov. 16 testing. After finishing a math quiz, he went to the auditorium for his test.

“I didn’t really have to wait. I’m pretty sure I was the first one there,” Calhoun said. “It went very smoothly. [The whole experience was a] very fast, easy process.”

Testing takes place in the auditorium every Tuesday from 10 to 11:05 a.m. and is staffed by four employees from CIAN Diagnostics, a Frederick, Md.-based testing company working to administer tests in schools, businesses and government agencies.

“The waiting didn’t take too long. We just checked out names on a list and then stood in line until almost everyone was there and then they started the tests,” Farahifar said. “There were two [ CIAN Diagnostics staff members] that tested us and the other two of them [gave] out the vials to put the cotton swabs in.”

Despite the ease of the testing process, there has been some confusion about the distribution of results. Neither Farahifar or Calhoun received their results, but assumed they were negative because they were not told to quarantine or stop coming to school. This would appear to contradict MCPS’ previous statements.

“The random screening test program utilizes PCR tests for laboratory testing and results are typically available within 24-48 hours,” the school system’s website said

WCHS has seen relatively few cases of COVID-19 — as of publication date, there have been only three cases, among the lowest high schools in the system. The hope with the screening tests is that they will let MCPS identify positive COVID-19 cases, allowing the person to quarantine and limiting the spread of the virus and the number of infected students.

Along with requiring masks in school buildings, encouraging social distancing and hand-washing and emphasizing vaccinations for community members — MCPS required staff and student-athletes who play winter and spring sports to get vaccinated earlier this school year, as other districts nationally mandated them for all eligible students — random COVID-19 testing is designed to limit the spread of the virus.

“I think it will help limit the spread of COVID because students are being tested more than before and any students that have tested positive will stay home and limit the spread,” Farahifar said. “And those that tested negative will continue coming to school.”