New Bedford Public Schools is implementing in-school symptomatic testing for COVID-19 on a voluntary basis for students and staff. In a letter sent September 15 to NBPS parents and guardians, Wanda Nunes, NBPS Supervisor of School Nurses, detailed the testing option, which requires completion of a parental consent form. Describing the program as “an extra layer of protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Ms. Nunes noted the ease of the new rapid antigen test. “It is a quick, nasal swab collected under the supervision of a school nurse or trained health provider. Unlike COVID-19 tests of the past, it is not uncomfortable and easy for students to do themselves.”
Tests will be administered conditionally under two categories: “Test and Stay” and “Symptomatic Testing.”
Test and Stay: Students and staff who are deemed close contacts due to exposure to a COVID positive individual while in school will have the opportunity to be tested using a rapid antigen test and remain in school with a negative result. The close contact will be tested for the next 5 to 7 days to ensure they remain negative. During this time, students will come to school via their normal mode of transportation (bus, walk, drop-off, drive, etc.). A parent will not need to remain at the school until the test result; they will be called to pick up their child in the event of a positive result.
Symptomatic Testing: Students and staff who present with mild COVID-19 symptoms during the school day, will have the opportunity to be tested using a rapid antigen test and remain in school with a negative result.
Karen Treadup, NBPS Deputy Superintendent stated, “This in-school testing option will help us to decrease the amount of lost learning time by students due to quarantining. This school year, the state has directed a full return to in-person learning, so it is critical to do everything possible to enable students to be at school. This program will greatly reduce the need to quarantine and miss school.”
Parental consent forms are online at www.newbedfordschools.org and available in different languages.
If a student does not have consent, they cannot be tested and would be required to follow the DESE/DPH COVID protocols for symptomatic individuals.
Symptomatic Testing is used when a student shows symptoms of COVID-19 during school. Students should not come to school if they feel sick while at home.
Ms. Nunes added “Although vaccinated students are much less likely to spread or contract the virus, we must create an inclusive environment for vaccinated and unvaccinated students and encourage all students to participate in this program.”