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Update on COVID Testing - School Opening 2020-2021

Update on COVID Testing - School Opening 2020-2021 - Superintendent's Bulletin #22

Dear Parents, Guardians and Staff,

As you know, last Friday Governor Baker announced pool testing will be available for all schools and districts in the state by February. Director of BPS Nursing Beth Rumley and I attended the state-provided webinar today regarding this initiative.

What is “pool surveillance testing?”

The Governors’ “pool surveillance testing” initiative for schools involves collecting a nasal swab sample of individual staff and students and then testing the pooled sample by running a single laboratory test. If a pooled test result is negative, then all individuals within that pool are presumed negative and may 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. The Abbott BinaxNOW rapid point-of-care antigen test will be the primary source of this individual follow-up testing. DESE says they will pay for the “first-round” of pool testing during the program’s start-up phase, and then schools and districts will have to purchase more tests. Our nursing staff would administer the test (it cannot be done at home).

In addition, the state has begun the COVID vaccine roll-out. The Town of Belmont is beginning to vaccinate first responders. Our school nurses are included with first responders in Phase I of the vaccine distribution, as they will be helping the health department vaccinate the public and eventually administer the COVID testing of staff and students. This phased approach follows the vaccine distribution timeline developed by the state.

As you know our ability to test and vaccinate our students and staff is an essential component of providing more in-person learning. Please see the steps Belmont has taken and explored thus far:

✔  Have access to state-sponsored mobile testing unit; DESE will make this available if a potential cluster of COVID-19 is identified in a Town and transmission appears to have occurred within school

✔  Applied the Abbot BinaxNOW antigen testing of students and staff. Training for our nurse will begin when we receive the necessary materials.  This is a test for individuals who present with symptoms during the day, this is not surveillance testing

  • Will apply for the state COVID pool surveillance testing
  • Continued to pursue additional testing options with Belmont Board of Health, BPS School Nursing Department with partnering districts

We will be discussing this briefly at tonight’s School Committee meeting, and will give a more detailed update at the January 19 School Committee meeting.


John P. Phelan
Superintendent of Schools
Belmont, Massachusetts