Governor Charlie Baker’s office announced on Friday, January 8, weekly COVID-19 pooled testing will be available within the next month to schools and districts across Massachusetts.
The rapid testing initiative, now being expanded, began in schools in December.
School districts that participate and provide in-person or hybrid learning will receive kits on a priority basis. Schools in remote learning, looking to bring students back to classrooms, can also participate in the pooled testing program.
Interested districts and schools have until January 15 to notify DESE of their participation in the program.
Pooled testing involves mixing several test samples together in a “batch” or “pool,” and then testing the pooled sample with a diagnostic, PCR test for detection of SARS-CoV-2. This approach increases the number of individuals tested using the same amount of laboratory resources as a single PCR test.
The test, performed at least once per week on an anterior nasal swab, delivers results 24-48 hours.
If a pooled test result is negative, then all individuals within that pool are presumed negative and may remain in school.
If a pooled test result is positive, then everyone in the pool receives an individual diagnostic test.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will assume the testing costs during the start-up of the program. Cost estimates range from $15 million and $30 million.
Following the initial launch, districts and schools may continue the program using federal stimulus dollars .