The Eatonville School District has been selected to participate in a pilot program that will bring more COVID-19 testing to the community and schools.

According to a press release from the school district, participation in the Keep Eatonville Strong Project will be voluntary for students and staff and open to pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Testing will be for people exhibiting symptoms or those who are asymptomatic.

The pilot program will be free to all participants and is expected to be operational by late December.

The Eatonville School District is one of four in the county to participate. On Oct. 28, the Pierce County Council approved spending $7.8 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stimulus Act for the program. It will be administered by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

“Work is already underway with the Eatonville School District to increase access to testing to get children back into the classroom,” Tacoma-Pierce County Health Director Anthony Chen said in the press release.

The county Health Department is expected to expand to other school districts, including Peninsula, Carbonado and White River, which have expressed interest in participating, according to the press release.

“We all want schools to get back to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so,” Chen said in the press release. “Access to testing is critical in this effort. Testing results will help districts decide whether to hold in-person classes. We hope this project will help keep students and staff safer when schools make the decision to reopen and reduce the overall spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

In addition to the Health Department, the pilot program is a collaboration between the following: The Gates Foundation; Washington State Pharmacy Association; MultiCare Eatonville Health Partners; Kirk’s Pharmacy owner Kirk Heinz; South Pierce Fire & Rescue; Mesurado Cooperative; Health Commons Project, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction; the Eatonville classified and certified staff unions; the White River, Carbonado and Peninsula school districts; and the Washington State Governor's Office for Washington State Reopening planning purposes and to keep schools as safe as possible, according to the press release.

The Eatonville School District will provide more information soon. Residents will be able to ask public health officials questions regarding the pilot program in the coming weeks.