BARRIE, ONT. -- Plans to start asymptomatic testing for students and staff are underway in Simcoe Muskoka.

According to the provincial government, asymptomatic testing should help keep COVID-19 case numbers low in Ontario schools.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce had ordered the tests be carried out in at least five per cent of schools every week.

The boards, ministry and local health units will have input on the schools selected for testing.

Pauline Stevenson, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, said St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School would be the first, starting next Wednesday (March 4).

"Then we can get a good understanding of the COVID situation in our schools and make sure that everybody can be as healthy and safe as possible," Stevenson said.

A designated school will be chosen as the hub for neighbouring schools to participate in the voluntary testing.

Staff from Lifelabs will administer the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab tests.  The less-invasive test uses a shorter Q-tip-like swab that doesn't reach as far back in the nasal passage as the standard COVID-19 test, and can take upto 48 hours for the results.

Parents will have the option to pre-register their child for the testing, but walk-ins will be accepted on the evening of the testing. However, Stevenson said the challenge will be getting people tested because it's all volunteer-based.

"What we're relying on is our families and our parents to be partners in this. It's only going to be as effective as the amount of people that go and take advantage of the testing," she said.

The public board said it would begin a similar testing modelling plan on March 4, starting with five schools in the Bradford area at Bradford High School.