MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis charter school is among the first in the state to participate in a federal program making COVID-19 tests available on campus. 

Since the start of the pandemic, Promise Academy principal Patrick Washington has been pushing for this very moment: consistent COVID testing on campus.

“We follow the professionals and doctors, and their recommendations for keeping kids safe, keeping businesses safe, includes testing,” Washington said.

This week, Promise Academy Public Charter Schools became one of the first in the state to participate in Operation Expand Testing, a federal-funded program that offers COVID-19 tests to organizations and schools as a safety measure against the virus.

“The fact that we are one of the first schools being a part of that, again, it’s a testament of what Promise Academy stands for, and how we can get these things done when we partner together and do what’s right for kids,” Washington said.

Unlike previous testing doing on campus, this program’s tests are administered on site by school personnel. Thursday, more than 200 students and staff were tested for the virus, which school nurse Betty Reed says is a huge relief.

“We take care of all the worry, all the stress,” Reed said. “We have it right here. They come to school like any other day, we get it done for the parents, and the parents feel good about it because they know that the kids are going to be safe.”

The arrival of these PCR tests come as the Food and Drug Administration considers authorizing vaccines for kids 5 through 11 years old. It’s something that Reed hopes happens so they then can start vaccinating children as well.

“Testing is one thing, but preventative measures is something else so we know that they’ll be protected against the COVID virus, and they can be as healthy as they can,” Reed said. “Because our goal is to educate them, but to keep them as healthy as possible, and we try our best to do that.”

Once the results come back, school leaders say any students and staff testing positive must then quarantine, but there are plans for making instruction available for those while they are away from campus.