TORONTO -- Voluntary asymptomatic saliva testing is underway at Toronto’s schools with 40 offering testing this week, with another 40 slated to hand out saliva tests to staff and students next week.

“What we are doing for the next two weeks is identifying school-based hubs — that will be one school — where we will be on-site, for feeder schools in the neighbourhood, and inviting that community to come forward for testing,” Dr. Julia Orkin, The Hospital for Sick Children’s medical lead for school-based testing.

The Hospital for Sick Children, in partnership with several other hospitals in the community, is going on-site to conduct the targeted asymptomatic testing.

The Education Minister says the province wants testing carried out at approximately 5 per cent of Ontario’s schools per week week.

“I think the most important thing is to remember that the reason why we are testing staff and students who are asymptomatic, is to ensure that we keep our entire community safe, that we recognize that the importance of testing is really to understand how we can support those individuals who are high-risk within our communities,” Orkin said.

On Thursday afternoon, testing will take place between 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at John Polyani Collegiate Institute, for anyone who attends a school in the Lawrence Heights area.

On Wednesday, saliva kits were sent home with 220 children who registered for testing in the Parkdale area.

“Once we have the next few weeks under our belt, we may change the model, as we are learning priority areas,” Orkin said.

Orkin adds, the program will be re-evaluated in a few weeks, and enhanced testing may be conducted in more targeted ways.

For example, she says if a school has a high number of positive asymptomatic cases, it could make “more sense to test widely in high-risk neighbourhoods.”