ASPIRE network joins with San Antonio’s Community Labs, providing unprecedented COVID-19 testing

By Office of Integrated Marketing & Communications

Thursday, 10 29 2020

Seven south Bexar County ISDs creating collective impact - increased speed, accuracy, and less cost

SAN ANTONIO- The seven south Bexar County Independent School Districts (ISDs) comprising the ASPIRE network with Texas A&M University-San Antonio will launch a groundbreaking school COVID-19 testing initiative supported by Community Labs, LLC, a San Antonio-based nonprofit to provide cost-effective testing protocols. The testing initiative will improve speed and accuracy to identify asymptomatic silent spreaders. The testing program is scheduled to launch in early to mid-November, potentially impacting up to 68,000 students and more than 10,000 staff in the collaboration, known as the A&M-SA & South Bexar County ISDs Partnership to Impact Regional Equity and Excellence (ASPIRE) network. ASPIRE is comprised of the East Central, Edgewood, Harlandale, Somerset, South San Antonio, Southside and Southwest ISDs.

The Community Labs testing process identifies asymptomatic silent spreaders of COVID-19 by providing 24-hour test results, scale, accuracy and a less invasive, self-administered test by swabbing the front of the nostril. The testing programs will help to establish COVID-19 Safety Zones and a pathway for schools to reopen, people to return to work and communities to recover. Community Labs school outreach will be provided free of charge to ASPIRE students and staff as well as other districts throughout San Antonio. Funding is provided by grants from local government entities through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and by private donors.

When ASPIRE was established nearly a year ago, we hoped to be able to see the types of initiatives that would move the needle on collaborative efforts and opportunities resulting in collective impact. While none of us could have foreseen a global pandemic, we knew that ASPIRE’s ability to work together would increase the agility of the districts to move quickly to identify partners, services and delivery of resources,” said Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of A&M-San Antonio. “Community Labs involvement and its funders, A&M-San Antonio and the ASPIRE network demonstrate the effectiveness of putting the community first.”

Testing is scheduled to begin as early as Nov. 2 in ASPIRE districts, as well as other districts throughout San Antonio, including the Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST Schools), the San Antonio-based network of schools focused on experiential learning. More information can be found at https://castschools.com .

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Dr. Adriana Contreras at (210) 363-9717 or acontreras@tamusa.edu . To schedule an interview with Community Labs, contact Mary Ullmann Japhet, Japhet Media LLC, at (210) 414-9030 or mary@japhet-media.com .

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Texas A&M University-San Antonio
Texas A&M University-San Antonio is a comprehensive, four-year public university that reflects the culturally diverse, heritage-rich community it serves. Situated on nearly 700 acres in south San Antonio, A&M-San Antonio is a Military Embracing™ institution offering 30 undergraduate degrees and 19 graduate degrees to over 6,700 students. The University is home to the Henry G. Cisneros Institute for Emerging Leaders and the Cyber Engineering Technology/Cyber Security Research Center. A&M-San Antonio holds the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) designation. Visit  tamusa.edu for more information.

About Community Labs, LLC
Community Labs identifies asymptomatic silent spreaders of COVID-19 by providing 24-hour test results, scale, accuracy and a less invasive test by swabbing the front of the nostril. Students and staff may self-administer this test, swabbing each nostril for 10 seconds. This strategy is called “assurance testing.” Through its improved testing program, Community Labs helps identify asymptomatic, COVID-19 individuals in a defined “micro-population,” such as schools or the workplace. That allows non-symptomatic members to safely quarantine, thereby stopping the virus from spreading and allowing for the rest of the population to remain safe. The Community Labs screening process uses a PCR test—the FDA gold standard in COVID-19 testing – and is 95 percent effective in detecting asymptomatic silent spreaders of the virus. Community Labs, LLC is a collaborative, nonprofit organization co-founded by Graham Weston, former CEO and chairman of Rackspace Technology and founder of the 80|20 Foundation; J. Bruce Bugg Jr., chairman and trustee of the Tobin Endowment; and J. Tullos Wells, managing director of the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. Weston is chairman of Community Labs, with Bugg and Wells serving as vice chairman. Partner nonprofit, BioBridge Global, houses and staffs the lab in San Antonio. Visit communitylabs.org for more information.

“There’s no question that students learn better when they are in the classroom with their teachers and schoolmates. So, it’s vital for those students who are now at home and attending school remotely to get back into the classroom as soon as possible, and it’s also vital for reopening the San Antonio and Texas entire economy that their parents are able to return to their own jobs. That was really a driving force for the three co-founders of Community Labs – Graham Weston and his 80/20 Foundation, J. Tullos Wells, managing director of the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, and myself.” – J. Bruce Bugg Jr., co-founder of Community Labs and Chairman and trustee of the Tobin Endowment

About ASPIRE
A first-of-its-kind collaborative effort between a public university and seven South Bexar County ISDs (East Central, Edgewood, Harlandale, Somerset, South San Antonio, Southside and Southwest), the ASPIRE partnership focuses on developing educational programs and services to support existing programs to develop teachers with an affirmation for the community where they live, work and learn; curriculum development for a dynamically changing world; and accessible programs that offer specialized services for children with special needs across south Bexar County and south San Antonio. This collaboration, known as ASPIRE, focuses on:

  • Design customized solutions for the needs of each of the seven ISDs.
  • Inspiring innovation by developing the first-known public university and independent school district SB1882 lab schools in Texas.

ASPIRE priorities:

  • Creating opportunities for a collective impact.
  • Filling teacher shortages in STEM areas.
  • Educating students and families on the benefits of a four-year degree.
  • Expanding accessible programs for specialized services for children with special needs across south Bexar County and south San Antonio.
  • Advancing the school-to-college pipeline.

    ASPIRE launch news release

ASPIRE ISD Superintendent Quotes

East Central ISD
“East Central ISD appreciates the support from the ASPIRE partnership, as the testing from Community Labs adds one more layer of risk mitigation. This crucial step keeps our community safer and improves levels of comfortability.” – Roland Toscano, East Central ISD superintendent

Edgewood ISD
“In Edgewood ISD, the safety of our students and staff is top priority. I am looking forward to the ASPIRE/Community Labs COVID-19 testing opportunity in our district. In EISD, there are extensive safety protocols in place. However, with resources like Community Labs, we can offer additional safety measures to our community to help mitigate the spread of the virus.” – Dr. Eduardo Hernández, Edgewood ISD superintendent

Harlandale ISD
“Our priority is always the safety and well-being of our students and staff. By being able to use the resources provided by San Antonio's Community labs and our ASPIRE partnership, we are being proactive in making sure we have safer campuses. We hope this will allow us to detect those individuals who may be asymptomatic and do our part in stopping the spread of this virus within our district.” – Gerardo Soto, Harlandale ISD superintendent

Somerset ISD
“COVID-19 screening has helped bring back students into the classroom and lesson the anxiety among our teachers.” – Dr. Saul Hinojosa, Somerset ISD superintendent

South San Antonio ISD
“We are inspired by this Community Labs partnership through Texas A&M – San Antonio ASPIRE and equally understand the importance of our moral responsibility to ensure the safety of our students, staff and the broader community. We know and appreciate that this COVID testing program will help us to continue to provide quality education in a safe environment for our South San students during the pandemic.” – Dr. Marc Puig, South San Antonio ISD superintendent

Southside ISD
“We are excited to launch the ASPIRE/Community Labs COVID-19 testing at Southside ISD. We know this will help immensely to detect the virus and prevent its spread to keep our families safe from serious illness.” – Rolando Ramirez, Southside ISD superintendent

Southwest ISD
“As Southwest ISD continues to provide on-campus instruction, it is imperative to keep our students and staff safe. Though safety and social distancing efforts continue, the ability to test for COVID-19 takes these measures to the next level. This additional layer of protection will help in the fight against the spread of this virus. This will be an opt-in service for our families, and we highly encourage participation.” –
Dr. Lloyd Verstuyft, Southwest ISD superintendent