Hidalgo ISD to test student-athletes, staff for COVID-19

HIDALGO — How will in-person classes start for Rio Grande Valley students this semester? If you’re an athlete, coach or teacher heading back to campus at Hidalgo ISD, it will likely start with having a swab stuck up your nose.

At a school board workshop streamed Monday, Superintendent Xavier Salinas detailed the district’s testing program for football players and coaches, who hit the field for the first time in half a year Monday.

Salinas also suggested testing district teachers and employees at the beginning of the school year would comfort the rest of the district’s staff, an opinion he said was passed along to him by principals.

“I think it will put the teachers at ease, knowing que todos tan limpios pa comencar la escuela. And, you know, take it from there,” he said, noting in Spanish that such comfort would come in knowing that all are ready for the start of school.

Complimenting the board for avoiding laying off any employees under contract since the district’s March 12 shutdown, Salinas noted that the pandemic hit the Hidalgo ISD community particularly hard.

“We’ve had lots of positive cases within our staff, with limited times. Imagine if we were there all the time like were supposed to, how many more would have got sick?” he said. “May they rest in peace, we’ve got beautiful people too, we’ve lost several staff members and right now they’re looking to us from heaven saying thank you also for paying them those 40 weeks and unfortunately, you know, now they’re resting in heaven.”

Salinas didn’t indicate whether teachers would be retested after the semester began, although he did indicate it was a possibility. Testing would be free to school district employees, he said.

“It doesn’t cost them a penny. Insurance covers it all,” he said.

Trustees did not voice opposition to testing all of the district’s staff at the workshop, and at least two spoke in favor of it.

“As we know, taking a test, a swab test, doesn’t guarantee that people are not going to get infected. But it gives us the peace of mind that when you’re at work everybody got tested and everybody’s clean, so that’s a good approach, that’s a good initiative,” Trustee Benjamin Arjona said.

The district conducted its first large scale testing project Monday, testing football players, volleyball players, coaches and support staff prior to practice that afternoon.

The district used antigen nasal swab tests, designed to return results within 15 minutes.

Salinas says football players will be tested regularly, on Thursdays prior to Friday football games throughout the season — although athletes at other districts might not be tested that often.

“I asked the other superintendents to give us the common courtesy to do it too, but it’s up to them. I can’t twist their arms…,” Salinas said.

Athletes will rely on insurance or government money to pay for testing, Salinas said.

The kids without insurance, it didn’t cost them a penny. The doctors have the federal virus relief funding that the governor gave them for people without insurance. And the ones that have insurance, it bills their insurance.