DeSoto Parish tests students, staff members for COVID-19 after students show “flu-like” symptoms

COVID testing site

MANSFIELD, La. (KSLA) - A line of nearly two dozen cars snaked through the ‘drop-off’ lane of Mansfield Middle & Elementary Schools early Friday morning — awaiting COVID-19 tests.

Testing lasts until 1 p.m. Friday afternoon.

The ‘pop-up’ coronavirus testing site was established after district leaders announced the two schools would return to virtual learning, following a suspicious rise in “flu-like” symptoms in students.

“We just decided we have to be safe rather than be sorry,” said Amanda LaFollette, principal of Mansfield Elementary. “We had a lot of children presenting with the same type of symptoms, not a lot of fever, but coughing and sore throat.”

In fact, LaFollette added nearly 25 percent of the school’s students with either out sick earlier this week or quarantining away from school as a precaution.

“They looked sick, it wasn’t just a runny nose here or there,” she added. “This could be something we get every year, or it could be COVID.”

Among the greatest concerns for medical experts, school leaders and parents is the convergence of the flu and COVID-19 — a potentially dangerous duo that could result in inundated hospitals.

“Is it flu, is it COVID, is it another bug we don’t know about?” she explained. “If we can get the testing done and find out what it is then we’ll know how to find out how to fight against it.”

Mansfield flu and COVID testing site, schools closed

As a precaution, DeSoto Parish ultimately decided to return to virtual, remote learning for Mansfield Middle and Elementary students until Tuesday, October 27. However, as test results return following Friday’s community testing, there is a chance virtual learning is potentially extended for some.

“I hope parents understand this is a proactive measure, we are trying to catch it before it catches us,” LaFollette said. “We want to test everybody because the more data we have the better job the scientists can do to figure out what’s going on in our community.”

Some parents expressed worry over the sudden announcement to keep students home.

“My concern is her catching COVID, as far as it goes with kids, they don’t take it as seriously,” said Bethia Chattie, a parent whose daughter is enrolled at one of the Mansfield schools.

Chattie is thankful, however, DeSoto Schools moved hastily to have students, teachers and other community members tested for the virus.

“My first concern is safety and I know the school because I work here,” stated Corliss Rankin, a parent and district employee. “We practice safety all the time, everyone is doing their jobs and keeping kids safe.”

Rankin, like Chattie, lauded the school district for organizing the community coronavirus testing.

“I love our district, we try to put together a system that works,” she added. “I’m pleased.”

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