DeKalb school board votes down purchase of 15,000 at-home COVID tests

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The DeKalb County Board of Education denied the purchase of 15,000 at-home COVID-19 tests, even though most members agreed the tests would be good to have on hand. (Alyssa Pointer / AJC file photo)

By Cassidy Alexander

The DeKalb County Board of Education voted against purchasing 15,000 rapid at-home COVID-19 tests at its meeting this week.

Four board members voted against the purchase after raising concerns about whether district staff had done its due diligence in vetting vendors. Two board members favored the purchase and one abstained from voting.

The tests would have been another COVID-19 mitigation strategy to add to the district’s arsenal after the omicron surge and in anticipation of future surges, said interim Deputy Superintendent Deborah Moore-Sanders.

“Our goal was just to make sure that we have a way to ensure that our staff feels very safe,” she said.

Moore-Sanders pointed to the threat of a future spike in case numbers, perhaps after spring break, as a reason for needing a supply of tests on hand.

The district does not currently have a supply of rapid COVID tests. It conducts surveillance testing at every school each week by partnering with other organizations. It also offers free COVID testing almost every week.

At the meeting, some board members raised concerns about the cost per test and their expiration dates. They were also leery of approving the purchase before a vendor was chosen and the exact cost was known.

Moore-Sanders asked the board to approve a purchase not to exceed $250,000, but the cost could be less than $150,000, depending on the selected vendor. The agenda included five quotes, and she said they were still receiving more.

Even board members who voted against the purchase said they felt the tests would be good for the district.

“I do understand,” said Diijon DaCosta, who voted not to buy the tests at this time. “But I think we need to become more proactive when we bring these results to the board and request money.”

The district maintains a mask mandate in its buildings.

Gov. Brian Kemp is urging legislation that would give parents the right to opt out of any school mask mandates for students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal masking indoors at schools.

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