WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Justin Bartholomew reports the Pentucket Regional School District has been chosen by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the U.S. Department of Defense to receive rapid COVID-19 tests to help identify cases of coronavirus 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 program. There are approximately two million tests available, but Pentucket officials have not yet been notified of the number of tests they will receive.
The tests are to be used for 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 regarding the next steps to take, including 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 virus in the school community.
“Being able to start the contact tracing process moments after confirming a positive test result is vital in preventing any further spread of COVID-19 in our schools,” Superintendent Bartholomew said. “Though this resource will be vital in identifying cases of the disease among our school population, it’s important to remember that any individual who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 prior to the start of the school day should stay home and contact their healthcare provider about testing options.”
School nurses will be trained to administer the rapid tests 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 contact their healthcare provider about testing options.
The district applied for the tests approximately three weeks ago. Districts chosen to receive the first round of testing kits were those who are currently utilizing in-person learning. Pentucket 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 completed by all selected schools to help establish protocols for future phases. The tests will also be distributed to other organizations, such as private schools and nursing homes.
For more information about the program, click here. The district will share more information as it becomes available in the coming weeks.