Monomoy Regional School District launches first COVID-19 pooled testing program on Cape Cod
In an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Monomoy Regional School District has been working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to implement a free COVID-19 pooled testing program for students and staff at its schools. Studies have shown pooled testing to dramatically decrease COVID rates in communities by identifying asymptomatic cases. Monomoy is the first district on Cape Cod to launch pooled testing for COVID-19.
Pooled testing involves mixing several individuals’ test samples together into one “pool” and then testing the pooled sample for COVID-19 using PCR tests. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested at one time and allows MRSD to regularly and efficiently test the school community for COVID-19. The pooled tests will be performed once per week for seven weeks starting March 1 through April 18, while the state is funding pooled testing for schools. Whether the district extends pooled testing beyond April 18 will depend upon the overall success of this initiative at reducing COVID rates in the school community and the availability of sustained funding for pooled testing.
In pooled testing, staff and all students in Grade 2 and above swab their own noses, and school nurses facilitate the swabbing of PreK, kindergarten, and Grade 1 students. After swabbing, students deposit their swab in the classroom collection tube and sanitize their hands, and in less than a minute, pooled testing is done and the day’s lesson begins. 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. Monomoy schools have been provided tests to use for this follow-up testing, which allows students and staff in a positive pool to be tested and receive individual results in 15 minutes.
“We’re excited to add pooled testing as another mitigation strategy for our school community, as we continue to work together to maintain a safe school environment for in-person learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Scott Carpenter. “Combined with masking, 6-foot distancing in our classrooms, and frequent sanitizing, pooled testing will allow our students even more in-person learning time, while we also work to lower community rates of COVID. We are working hard to protect our students, staff, and entire community.”
For the first week of testing, nearly 60% of students and staff participated. In an effort to ensure that the program does not create additional work for teachers or nursing staff, the MRSD central office staff and administrators have managed much of the planning and logistics.
Monomoy maintains current COVID-19 data for the district on its COVID dashboard, located at www.monomoy.edu.