WILMINGTON, MA — At a recent School Committee Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand announced Wilmington Public Schools is unlikely to participate in the COVID-19 pooled testing initiative from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“This appears to be an intensive program that will involve a considerable amount of logistical coordination, as well as human and financial resources,” cautioned Brand. “Based upon the preliminary information obtained, I do not see our participation in this program at all possible based on the utilization of staffing alone. As a result, our engagement in such a program would necessitate contracting for support and, possibly, volunteers as well.”
Pooled testing would involve “mixing several test samples together in a ‘pool’ and then testing the pooled sample with a PCR test for detection of COVID. This approach increases the number of individuals that can e tested using the same amount of resources as a single PCR test. The test is performed at least once per week with anterior nasal swab for all students and staff members. Results are delivered within approximately 24-48 hours. If a pooled test result is negative, then all individuals with the pool are presumed negative and continue to remain in school. If a pooled test result is positive, then all individuals in the pool must quarantine until they are retested individually.”
According to information provided by DESE, during the initial six weeks of the program, districts would receive test kits, support from a testing services provider, and the testing software all at no cost. Following the 6-week launch, districts could continue to purchase tests and the accompanying materials and software from a statewide contract using their federal stimulus dollars. The tests, in most cases, would be administered using the district’s staff.
Brand told the Committee he was committed to learning more about the program, and would model respective costs before making any final determination.
The leadership of the Wilmington Teachers Association has publicly called on Superintendent Brand to have the district participate in the program:
“Thanks to Governor Baker for offering COVID pool testing to school districts. The WTA officers agree that a program like this will give us all a better idea of what’s happening in schools regarding coronavirus. We hope that Wilmington Public Schools and the Wilmington Board of Health will sign us up.”
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