COVID Pool Testing Program at RPS Provide an Extra Layer of Protection

For the past three weeks students and staff have been pool tested for the COVID-19 virus as an extra precaution this school year.  Pooling—sometimes referred to as pool testing or pooled testing—means combining the same type of specimen from several people and conducting one laboratory test on the combined pool of specimens to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Pooled tests that return positive results will require each specimen in the pool to be retested individually to determine which individual(s) are positive. Revere Public School Assistant Superintendent Richard Gallucci said in the first two weeks of pool testing Revere Public School identified six positive asymptomatic individuals. The following week four more positive tests showed up.  However, the pool testing program allows schools to rapidly identify who is positive, separate them from the rest of the school population and allow the students who are negative to continue at school.  “Once we identify the positive individual we bring the family in and the nurse provides support and guidance, and certainly connects with the family, to be sure that the child is okay and that they have the proper support and care,” said Gallucci. “Right now, 45 percent of our students are currently participating in our pool testing program. The  program has been so great and has allowed us to keep children in school that are negative and we use a follow up rapid test to make sure of that.” The rapid test is administered to anyone in the pool that has had close contact with an individual(s) that has tested positive. The test takes about 15 minutes to get results.  Gallucci said these rapid tests are administered to those staff or students that were in close contact with a positive individual(s) over the course of five days each morning via the school nurse and health aide.  “The child (or staff member) only stays in school if that rapid test comes back negative,” he said. “This is a big improvement from last year. So last year, if a student was determined to be a close contact, and never became positive they may have missed seven or eight days of school because they had to quarantine whereas this year they can continue with their schooling with a simple test each morning for 15 minutes.” Gallucci said the program would never have become as successful as it has without the work of school nurses, health aides, administrators, and school staff and teachers.  “They execute the pool testing every Monday flawlessly during the first block of the day,” he said. “It’s really a total team and building effort, and I can’t be more proud. I think a testament to the work that we’ve done is that some of the private testing vendors have communicated with me and asked me to touch base with leaders from other school districts to see how we got this off the ground, and to see how we’ve been able to effectively maintain it.”

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