Reminder: Student COVID Testing

Student COVID Testing
Posted on 02/26/2021
Project BeaconDear parents, caregivers, and guardians,

Thank you for your continued partnership during this unprecedented school year. In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have been working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to implement a free COVID-19 pooled testing program for students at our school.

The purpose of this notice is to ask your permission to regularly test your child as part of a pooled testing program at our school. Pooled testing involves grouping 5-10 individual test samples together into one “pool” and then testing the pooled sample for COVID-19. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested at one time and allows us to regularly test our school community for COVID-19.

The pooled tests will be performed at least once per week with a shallow nasal swab for all participating students and staff members. The test is the equivalent of a cotton swab for which only the cotton enters the nose. Schools will receive the pool results within 24-48 hours. If the result of the pool is negative, then all individuals are presumed to not have COVID-19. If the result of the pool is positive, then all individuals in the pool must be retested individually. Because pooled testing does not give individual results, you will only be notified if your child requires follow-up testing.

Our school will be providing multiple options for follow-up testing. The district will offer the Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Tests for follow-up testing, which provides individual results in 15 minutes. Families will also be able to choose to use the free Stop the Spread testing provided by the city to get an individual diagnostic test. We also have support to ensure all families are able to access the follow-up test. Our staff has been trained on how to administer pooled testing, as well as the Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Tests, if they are needed for follow-up testing.

We will send a Parent Square message if your child is part of a positive pool and requires follow-up testing. You will be asked to provide confirmation of how your child will receive their follow-up test. If we do not receive confirmation, one of our Salem Public School nurses will call your family to follow-up. Either SPS or a physician will also notify you of the individual follow-up test results regarding whether your child is positive or negative, and what to do in each scenario.

Salem Public Schools will report all follow-up test results to DPH. As we have done all year, we will also provide positive follow-up test results (without names or other identifying information) to DESE’s Rapid Response Help Unit.

To give permission for your student to participate in the COVID-19 Pooled Testing Program at our school, including consent to transmit student information via the pooled testing technology platform, consent for any necessary follow up tests, and consent to share the test result information with the Department of Public Health and Project Beacon (a third party [non-profit] organization contracted to compile consent for testing and to share test results), please click this link: https://app.beacontesting.com/register/with-code?code=TLHYTI 

Please note, the link above is specific to students at Collins Middle School. If you are consenting for another child who attends a different school, please wait to receive the specific link for that school. In addition, a paper permission form may be requested if you cannot access the online site. 6th grade students will need to fill out the consent form link above even if your child was in the pilot program we started in November. 

At Salem Public Schools, we are extremely grateful to our committed staff and families that continue to show great flexibility and resilience as we navigate through this school year. It takes all of us working together to contain the spread of this virus. We are excited to add pooled testing as another mitigation strategy for our school community, as we continue to work to work together toward the safe return of all students and staff to school.

The company has an FAQ for families to help with the consent form and other questions about the program:
https://help.beacontesting.com/article/86-faq-for-parents-k-12-pooled-testing

If you have any other questions regarding the COVID-19 Pooled Testing Program, please email Chelsea Banks at SalemReturns@salemk12.org or reach out to Matt Condon at mcondon@salemk12.org at Collins.

Thank you,
Principal Matt Condon
Collins Middle School
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