TOWNSEND — Superintendent Brad Morgan reports that the North Middlesex Regional School District has been chosen by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the US Department of Defense to receive rapid COVID-19 tests to help identify cases of the disease in the district.
On Monday, Nov. 16, the district was one of 134 districts in the state chosen to receive free, rapid tests as part of the programs. There are approximately two million tests available for all the schools, but North Middlesex officials have not yet been notified about the number of tests they will receive.
The tests are to be used on staff or students who develop COVID-19 symptoms while at school. If the individual tests positive for COVID-19, they will be sent home and given instructions on the next steps to take, such as self-isolation protocols and additional testing requirements. These tests can only be administered to those who are already showing symptoms related to COVID-19 and the district has created isolation areas at each school for those who are showing symptoms.
The instant results will also allow for the district to start conducting contract tracing immediately after a positive result is confirmed, helping to mitigate further spread of the disease in the school community.
“These tests will allow schools to test those who become symptomatic during the day at school, help guide the next steps and accelerate the contact tracing,” Director of Student Support Services Brad Brooks said. “Being able to take these steps quickly can have huge effects on mitigating the spread of the disease in our schools and better identify who needs to quarantine as a result of an exposure. We are grateful to have been chosen to receive these tests, and to be able to have this additional resource to protect the health and safety of our students, staff and their families.”
School nurses, who will administer the rapid tests, will be trained in the coming weeks. Testing will only be conducted with parent or guardian authorization. Parents and guardians will also receive consent forms that must be returned and will also be contacted directly by the school should their students become symptomatic and need to get tested.
Families and staff are reminded that any individual who is showing any COVID-19-related symptoms prior to the start of the school day must stay home and contact their healthcare provider about testing. Those who may have been exposed to the disease are asked to remain home as well, monitor themselves for symptoms and to contact their healthcare provider about testing options.
The district applied for the tests roughly three weeks ago. Districts chosen to receive the first round of testing kits were those who are currently utilizing in-person learning. North Middlesex is currently following a hybrid learning model.
This is the first phase of the state program. DESE will also use the information gathered from the testing done by all chosen schools to help establish protocols for future phases. The tests will also be distributed to other organizations, such as private schools and nursing homes.
Parents or guardians with questions may contact their student’s principal or school nurse for more information. Additional information about the program will be shared with families in the coming weeks as well.
Further information on the district’s response protocols for positive or possible COVID-19 cases can be found in the full reopening plan, linked here.