Case Study

Using the Whole Tool Box:

How Davenport School District Kept their Kids in School

Davenport school district

  • 520 students in grades K-12
  • Rural community with limited access to COVID-19 testing
  • Tremendous community support
  • National Blue Ribbon Award Winner for Academic Excellence

Prioritize In-Person Learning

Jim Kowalkowski, his staff and his school board have a strong focus: Keep Davenport schools open for in-person learning while keeping kids safe and healthy.

As the Superintendent for Davenport School District, a small community in eastern Washington, Jim and his team are responsible for keeping 520 K-12 graders healthy and in the classroom. When Davenport schools reopened in September of 2020, after being remote since March, some students opted to continue virtual learning. But Jim and his staff saw that many of the virtual students, even those with high-speed internet connections, struggled to stay engaged with each passing week. It quickly became clear to Jim’s principals and teachers that in-person learning was best for his students.

“I saw COVID-19 testing being done with professional and college sports teams and thought: ‘Why can’t we have COVID-19 testing in schools?’ I started to push for it in a professional way. When we were invited into the Learn to Return pilot program, we were excited. I figured, if I’m going to complain, and then someone offers me an opportunity to find a solution – I need to step up and do it.”

2020 Wins

  • School was closed for only two days due to COVID in 2020-2021 school year
  • Implemented new class scheduling to maintain distancing, which will continue in 2021-2022 school year
  • Gave students a touch point to report symptoms and feel supported and safe before entering the building each morning
  • Offered testing to students, staff, parents and families as well as to other community members
  • Coordinated with the local health department to ensure test swabs from the schools were sent to the lab on time

Use the Whole Toolbox

“Using the whole toolbox,” as Jim says, is how Davenport kept COVID numbers low, and it’s why they were able to re-open early in the pandemic and stay open for the majority of the year.

Before Davenport had access to school-based COVID testing, they focused on masks, daily symptom checks and reduced density. When students arrived in the morning, they had their temperatures checked and a friendly face asking them: How are you doing? How are you feeling? Davenport schools also adjusted their scheduling, creating pods and having different groups of students on campus at different times to allow for social distancing.

The availability of school-based testing, which began in January 2021, gave Davenport students and staff clear data on COVID positivity rates in their school community. This knowledge allowed Jim and his team to quarantine students and teachers as needed and prevent any major outbreaks.

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  • Provided guidance for setting up and managing school testing programs
  • Provided access to testing kits and other resources
  • Very responsive to the school district whenever questions or concerns came up
  • Shared updates on policy and technical changes from vendors

“Our district chose testing because we want to stay open. And testing is one tool of many to help keep our kids, our schools and our community safe.”

Jim Kowalkowski

Superintedent, Davenport School District

Minimize lost learning days

Jim’s focus continues to be on keeping schools open. And the way to do that is clear: Use the whole toolbox! Testing, masks, distancing, reducing density, daily symptom checks, quarantine positive cases and getting vaccinated (if you’re eligible).

Jim and his team plan to continue symptomatic testing and will follow the guidance for masking as it evolves. Before the recent surge in cases due to the Delta variant, Jim was hoping to reduce masking requirements in 2021 – however, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep schools open and kids safe. He’s also focused on keeping sports teams on the fields and courts throughout the year through a mix of testing, masking and quarantining as needed.

In Davenport, despite the uncertainty around the 2021-2022 school year, there’s optimism and excitement. Davenport is going back to a 5-day week after doing a 4-day week last year. They’re also sticking with the block scheduling model they started during COVID, and have added new programs and offerings to students. There are also a number of new teachers starting in the district who will bring fresh ideas to the community. And 21 of the 65 employees in the district volunteered through all of last year to be tested for COVID every two weeks.


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Implementing an effective school testing program

Before the pandemic, Lincoln County, where Davenport school district is located, employed a full-time nurse, Jolene Ericson, who took on even more of a leadership role when the pandemic hit. Jolene spearheaded COVID communications with students and families and supported schools as needed.

Davenport also hired a full-time health room aid, Sharon Bergmann, to oversee COVID-19 testing and screening as the program expanded. Jim, Sharon, and the two building principals, Chad Prewitt (secondary) and Noelle Carsten (elementary) met once a week via Zoom with both

Jolene and Sharon in the early days of the pandemic, and then worked with them both closely to implement the L2R COVID testing program. Initially, Davenport School District only had access to Curative tests, but have since started to offer rapid tests as well.

Davenport School District was highly motivated to ensure consistent and safe in-person learning throughout the pandemic. Learn to Return supported that motivation with critical guidance on setting up and managing a testing program, resources for Jim and his team, support as questions came up and access to testing kits.

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Creative problem-solving

Davenport team members who went the extra mile

A School Secretary and Drive-Thru COVID tester

The COVID testing program wasn’t just run by Jim, Jolene and Sharon. Many staff and teachers stepped up to take on more responsibility to make in-person learning possible.

For example, Jim’s secretary, Stephanie, was trained to administer tests. Often, Jim would see her running out the parking lot to a waiting car to administer a drive-through test to a worried student and family.

A Health Room Aid and a Test Kit Delivery Person

Test kits must be sent to the lab within 24 hours. In Davenport, it wasn’t always possible to administer the tests before the UPS pick-up. But Sharon stepped up again – driving 45-minutes to the airport to ensure that day’s test kits arrived on time.

While Sharon was willing to whatever was needed, it wasn’t sustainable. So Davenport School District coordinated with the local health department to find a more sustainable solution. By the end of the school year, the health department arranged so one of their providers could to pick up test kits and ensured they got to the airport in time.

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Foster Community Engagement

A community effort, a community service

As a rural community, Davenport lacked COVID testing access, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Jim himself struggled to find a test when he wasn’t feeling well – and his best option was to drive 45-minutes each way to a Walgreen’s in Spokane. But once the school district began offering testing to students, they also provided that service to family members as well. While this wouldn’t necessarily be possible for all school districts, Davenport was able to offer this service because they’re a smaller community.

If a three-year-old was showing symptoms but wasn’t in the pre-school program, or if a grandparent was exposed through their grandchildren, they could get tested through the school program. The testing program also allowed sport teams to continue playing.

While not all parents took advantage of the testing program, the majority of parents and families appreciated having a convenient and fast option for testing. It was this level of community engagement that made – and will continue to make – the Davenport COVID testing program a success.

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