Editorial: LAHS’s COVID-19 testing has to improve

Los+Altos+High+School+held+on-campus+COVID-19+testing+yesterday+at+lunch.

Elyssa Kennedy

Los Altos High School held on-campus COVID-19 testing yesterday at lunch.

Chaos unfolded yesterday at Los Altos High School’s on-site COVID-19 testing, leaving many students confused, frustrated and discouraged. Worse, it revealed the Mountain View–Los Altos District’s inadequate planning both in responding to pressing safety concerns and in the long-term effort to keep students on campus despite the lingering danger of an unfinished pandemic.

After three COVID-19 exposures in the last week, approximately 335 students were instructed to get tested yesterday, with an on-site option available at lunch. But many students and faculty who showed up were abruptly turned away midway through, when it became clear that not everyone could get tested.

The District knew — or should have known — the number of close contacts that needed to be tested, but it failed to make plans for it. In numerous communications with The Talon, District representatives could not say exactly how many students were told to test Monday — although they emailed every one of these students — and said they would be able to give one later.

And even if little could immediately be done about the inundated testing station, clearer communication could have at least allowed students to find off-site testing earlier. Instead, hundreds of students and staff were left out of the loop, clustered in poorly distanced lines with other possibly infected individuals (many of whom would ultimately be denied the tests they came for).

This is unacceptable. 

Safety at school relies on timely and accessible testing, and it is critical that the school ensure that students are getting access. 

There were no COVID-19 testing appointments open at El Camino Hospital, CVS, Walgreens and many other locations yesterday or within the next couple of days. The most accessible testing available today was a 45-minute drive away from Los Altos. For many students, that left on-site testing as the only option. 

To its credit, the District quickly responded to yesterday’s fiasco with afternoon and morning testing, as well as future plans for expansion. Yet every delay in testing means more students and teachers are potentially being exposed to the virus. 

Each student who tests positive has about 150 close contacts who will need to be tested, according to District approximations. Without a robust procedure for handling these cases, the District runs the risk of increased transmission.

There are changes that can be made now to ease the pressure of these issues. To start, we could stagger testing throughout the day. Rather than gather in the large lines we saw yesterday, students could be called from class in smaller groups — prioritizing those with multiple exposures, teachers and other vulnerable populations.  

Requiring only a couple of minutes, staggered testing would waste less of students’ time and cause less confusion. It’s a small price to pay to ensure we can safely remain in person this year.

We get it: This process is new to everyone and District staff are trying their best to provide us with COVID-19 tests. But while students are still losing time to inefficient and ineffective logistics, that’s not enough.

In all likelihood, LAHS’s case count will only continue to rise. The District cannot rely solely on reactive measures every time something goes wrong; it needs to anticipate complications and plan for them. That’s the only way we can keep in-person instruction safe. 

To register for MVLA on-site COVID-19 testing, access the testing schedule and find local COVID-19 testing sites click here. To find COVID-19 testing sites within Santa Clara County click here

To make a free COVID-19 testing appointment with Fulgent Genetics click here. Testing is currently available at

To make a free COVID-19 testing appointment with OptumServe click here. Testing is currently available at