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Willmar Public Schools provides free at-home test kits for students

Willmar Public Schools students are eligible to receive a test kit with two at-home rapid tests, thanks to a grant from the state. Tests were distributed earlier this week, and parents can still pick up tests at the Willmar Education and Arts Center on Friday.

Jena Tollefson smiles as she hands out free COVID-19 testing kits
Willmar Public Schools human resources employee Jena Tollefson smiles as she hands out free COVID-19 testing kits at the Willmar Education & Arts Center on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Willmar Public Schools students and their families have been able to pick up free at-home COVID-19 tests this week.

The kits were provided through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Education.

Each Willmar Public Schools student in grades K-12 is eligible to receive a free kit containing two antigen tests. The kits were distributed to parents Wednesday and Thursday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center, and will be available again Friday.

A person departs the Willmar Education & Arts Center Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, where free COVID-19 testing kits were being given out
A person on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, departs the Willmar Education & Arts Center where free COVID-19 testing kits were being given out.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The kits could be used at home for any family member. The tests are to be used along with the internet or a compatible smart device, with results available in 15 minutes.

Parents who went to the Willmar Education and Arts Center on Wednesday and Thursday filled out information with their children’s names and ages on an iPad. The information went to computers on a table where Jena Tollefson of the district’s Human Resources Department and Patti Johnson, head nurse for the district and the district’s health and wellness coordinator, waited to hand out tests.

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Navada Prigge fills out paperwork on an iPad before receiving free COVID-19 testing kits
Navada Prigge fills out family information on an iPad before receiving free COVID-19 testing kits at the Willmar Education & Arts Center on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The tests contained directions in English, and stacks of directions in Spanish and Somali were available on the table.

Signs on the table warned parents not to leave the tests in the car, because they are not supposed to get cold.

Maria Benitez of Willmar said as she filled out the iPad form for her three children that the tests would be helpful for her family.

As they waited, parents talked about how difficult it has been to find home tests in stores recently.

The district also provides free testing for staff members who want it before school each school day.

Jason Kowalczyk departs the Willmar Education & Arts Center after receiving free COVID-19 testing kits
Jason Kowalczyk departs the Willmar Education & Arts Center after receiving free COVID-19 testing kits Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
More by Linda Vanderwerf:
Students from Focus House, a program to help people with special needs prepare for living on their own, have spoken to fourth-graders in the past month about bullying and how to address it. Many of the young adults from Focus House said they've been bullied in the past.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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