Pool Testing Schedule 10/12 - 10-15

  Mon Tues Wed  Thurs Fri
  10/11 10/12 10/13 10/14 10/15
SHS/NWFC   8a-3p      
Argenziano       8a-12p  
Brown   8a-12p      
Capuano   8a-12p      
ESCS       8a-12p  
Healey       8a-12p  
Kennedy       8a-3p  
WSNS       8a-12p  
WHCIS   8a-12p      
Edgerly       9a-12p  

SPS COVID Dashboard

Current community vaccination and COVID metrics, as well as information on SPS testing and tracing can be found on the SPS COVID Dashboard for the 2021-22 school year.

COVID Assurance Testing in Schools

Somerville Public Schools will continue universal COVID assurance testing during the 2021-2022 academic year.

  • All staff and students will be tested regardless of vaccination status.
  • Testing will be available weekly at each school.
  • Testing will be pooled PCR.

INTRODUCTION

In response to increasing COVID-19 cases caused by the spread of the Delta variant, Somerville Public Schools (SPS) will be continuing many of the testing and safety protocols adopted last school year to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Routine COVID-19 Pooled Testing will be offered on a weekly basis for all students, faculty, staff, other employees, and any other individuals providing direct, in-person services in SPS buildings regardless of vaccination status. As a reminder, parents will have to submit a consent form prior to student testing.

In addition to weekly PCR pooled testing, students will have access to symptomatic testing at school to quickly identify COVID-19 positive individuals, as well as “Test to Stay” diagnostic testing. Under this new DESE approved protocol, parents have the option of keeping students identified as in-class close contacts in their school while they undergo 7 consecutive days of rapid antigen testing. Parents who wish may still quarantine their student following an in-class exposure.

Masks will continue to be mandated for all students and staff entering the building, and physical distancing will be maintained where possible.

This page is intended as a resource for families and staff to learn about the Routine COVID-19 Pooled Testing protocol, how results will be communicated, and the testing schedule. For questions not answered in this section, or for anything to do with Routine COVID-19 Pooled Testing, please email Jose Mendez at jmendez@k12.somerville.ma.us.

More information on DESE’s COVID-19 Testing Program can be found on their website.

VACCINATIONS

Vaccination is the strongest protective measure against COVID-19 available to individuals 12-years of age and older. 

To find a vaccine clinic near you, please click on the link.

Fully Vaccinated

You are considered fully vaccinated:

·   Two weeks after your have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna); or

·   Two weeks after you have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson/Janssen)

HOW THE TESTING WORKS

During the 2021-22 school year, SPS will be participating in the DESE-sponsored Routine COVID-19 Pooled Testing program operated by CIC Health, which will help identify and isolate individuals who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers of the virus. Our goal is to provide universal and routine testing for all staff and students so as to prevent the virus spreading in the schools and the wider community. 

Students and staff will be tested using a pooled Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. PCR tests are the most sensitive and accurate type of test, detecting the virus’ genetic material when people are infectious but may not yet be showing symptoms.

Pool testing detects the virus as accurately as individual testing while reducing the number of tests that need to be processed and, as a result, the overall cost of testing. If one person is positive for the virus and triggers the pool, the entire pool will retest to determine which individual(s) submitted the positive sample. For more information on DESE’s COVID-19 Testing Program, click on the link.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN ON TESTING DAY?

Somerville is piloting a new sample collection process this year, so your student may be able to swab at their classroom or continue to be processed at a central location in their school. The test involves a gentle swab of the lower part of both nostrils for about 15 seconds. Per DPH guidance, staff and students who are in grades kindergarten and above are encouraged to self-administer the nasal swab under appropriate supervision. Samples will be collected by staff and either sealed individually or placed into a pooled sample for transport to the testing facility. 

More information on the testing procedure and results communication will be provided by CIC Health at a later date.

POST-TEST INSTRUCTION & RESULTS COMMUNICATION

Once all test samples have been processed, any positive results will be communicated as soon as possible by the SPS Health Services team. If you received a positive test notification, please cooperate with contact tracing teams to ensure that close contacts are identified to begin quarantine or the “Test to Stay” protocol.

BASELINE TESTING

Baseline testing will not be used during the 2021-22 school year. As was successfully piloted last year, students and staff will be tested in school during the first two days following an extended break. Please make sure to check for COVID-19 symptoms prior to returning to school, and make completing the health attestation a regular part of your morning routine.

POSITIVE INDIVIDUAL TEST RESULT

If you are positive for COVID-19, you must remain in self-isolation, away from other people (including members of the same household if possible) for at least 10 days following the beginning of your symptoms or positive test result AND until you have been fever-free for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms have improved. 

Individuals experiencing symptoms for longer than 10 days should contact their primary care physician. In some cases, symptoms may persist past the self-isolation period, including when a person is no longer infectious. SPS will review such cases with the public health nurse and primary care physician to determine whether the individual may return to school. 

Individuals who have tested positive and completed their isolation period should not participate in assurance testing for 90 days. The test may have detectable viral genetic material that would return a positive pool result, despite the fact that they are no longer infectious.  

NEGATIVE INDIVIDUAL TEST RESULT

Negative results will NOT be communicated. 

POSITIVE POOL TEST RESULT

After individual test samples are collected, they will be pooled together with up to 10 samples in the same test tube. This one tube will then be tested for the presence of COVID-19. A positive test indicates that one or more persons who submitted a sample into that pooled tube has COVID-19. To confirm the positive individual among the pool, all members may be asked to receive a reflex test (rapid antigen and PCR confirmation), or the lab may be able to determine the positive individual with additional samples submitted at the time of collection.

If you are positive for COVID-19, you must remain in self-isolation, away from other people (including members of the same household if possible) for at least 10 days following the beginning of your symptoms or positive test result AND until you have been fever-free for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms have improved. 

If you were a member of a positive pool but later test negative during follow-up testing, you may need to follow close-contact protocol. A contact tracer will determine whether you need to begin quarantine or “Test to Stay” protocol. Please follow all guidance from your school nurse or HHS contact tracer. 

NEGATIVE POOL TEST RESULT 

Negative pool test results will NOT be communicated. Individual test results may not be retrieved with this method of testing.

TEST NOT PERFORMED (TNP) RESULT

On rare occasions, test samples sent to the laboratory may produce a “Test Not Performed” result. When this occurs, it may be because the test sample was damaged during transportation, was contaminated, had debris that interfered with processing, or did not contain enough genetic material to return a result. In such cases, a member of the SPS COVID-19 Testing Team will notify parents or staff of a TNP result and may ask to arrange a follow-up COVID-19 test.

DIAGNOSTIC TESTING

Please note that individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should NEVER enter the school building. Diagnostic testing in school is not intended to replace daily symptom checks. Parents who send students with COVID-19 symptoms to school risk exposing other families to the virus and make it more difficult for SPS to mitigate outbreaks.

Symptomatic Testing: (for when individuals present symptoms while at school; individuals should not go to school if experiencing symptoms while at home): Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school using the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test or another approved diagnostic test.

"Test and Stay" (close contact testing): Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school using the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test or another approved diagnostic test. Tests are administered daily from the first day of exposure for at least five (5) days.

HOW WILL POSITIVE CASES IN THE CLASSROOM/SCHOOL BE COMMUNICATED?

To safeguard the health and well-being of our school community, SPS will notify families and staff regarding any positive results in their school, while maintaining confidentiality. Parents of students and staff will receive a separate communication if the positive case occurred in their classroom. 

When a member of our school community has tested positive for COVID-19, SPS School Health staff will follow up with anyone who has been identified as a close contact with the individual who tested positive. If you have not been contacted by a health professional, then there is no need for further inquiry.

When possible, classroom test samples will be pooled together and tested as a single batch, resulting in a “Pool Positive” or “Pool Negative” test result. If you or your student are part of a pool that tests positive, you will be contacted by a member of HHS and directed to quarantine/isolate, and provided instructions for a follow-up test (or reflex test) to determine the positive individual(s) in the pool.

Close contacts who were exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual in the classroom or on the bus while both individuals were masked do not have to quarantine unless they were within 3 feet of distance of the COVID-19 positive individual for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. 

This does not apply if someone was identified as a close contact outside of the classroom or bus (e.g., in sports, extracurriculars, lunch, etc.) or if masks are not worn by both persons at the time of the exposure.  All other close contacts must follow the standard protocol for when a close contact may return to school. The infectious period begins two days before symptom onset (or two days prior to the date of the positive test if the individual has no symptoms) and includes up until the time the student/staff was isolated because they tested positive. 

We ask that everyone please respect the privacy of those affected and those who need to quarantine. We ask that you exercise the right to privacy and decrease the stigma by refraining from discussing individual circumstances through conversations or social media.

GLOSSARY OF KEY TERMS

Anterior nasal swab: Unlike the nasopharyngeal swab, or “brain tickle” test that was used more frequently during the early days of the pandemic, an anterior nasal swab is a gentle swab of the lower part of the nostril with a cotton swab, about 0.5 inch within the nasal opening (or where a finger can reach), which is used to collect a sample to be tested for COVID-19.

Assurance testing: Also called “universal testing” or “screening testing,” it is a process in which the entire school population will be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis. Rather than testing only people who show signs of an infection, assurance testing monitors a seemingly healthy population to identify any individuals who may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic and who should be isolated. This process, used during the 2020-21 school year, was replaced with Routine COVID-19 Pool Testing.

Asymptomatic: Lack of symptoms. It is possible to contract the coronavirus and make antibodies to it even if you stay asymptomatic. It is also possible to spread the virus to others if you're carrying it but have no symptoms.

Close contact: Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

Incubation period: Period of time between exposure to an infection and onset of symptoms.

Isolation: The separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent spread of the communicable disease.

PCR test: Also called a molecular test, this COVID-19 test detects genetic material of the virus using a lab technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR tests are very accurate when properly performed by a healthcare professional, and are able to detect the presence of COVID-19 early in the incubation period.

Pool testing: Pooling—sometimes referred to as pool testing or pooled testing—means combining samples from several people and conducting one laboratory test on the combined pool of samples to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Somerville is able to combine up to 10 individual samples in the same pool to be tested together.

Pre-symptomatic: If you’re pre-symptomatic, you have contracted the virus and may soon feel symptoms, but at the moment, you don't have any. It may be possible to spread COVID-19 to others during this phase.

Quarantine: The separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic from others who have not been so exposed to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.

Reflex testing: When a pooled test is positive, it indicates that one or more of the 10 combined samples processed by the lab contained genetic material for COVID-19, but the test is unable to determine who provided the positive sample. A follow-up test, or reflex test, will be used to determine who among the group are negative for COVID-19, and who is positive. 

Routine COVID Pooled Testing and Lab-Based Follow-Up Testing: Shallow nasal or saliva samples are collected and kept separate before being grouped at the lab. If a group tests positive, individual Follow-Up testing occurs at the lab, without a second sample collection. Individual test results are reported to the school.

Routine COVID Pooled Testing and School-Based Follow-Up Testing: Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school and put into a single tube (maximum of 10 samples per tube). If a group tests positive, individual Follow-Up testing with a second sample collection occurs at the school with BinaxNOW and/or individual PCR testing, as necessary.

Screening testing: Screening tests for SARS-CoV-2 are intended to identify occurrence at the individual level even if there is no reason to suspect infection—e.g., there is no known exposure. This includes, but is not limited to, screening of non-symptomatic individuals without known exposure with the intent of making decisions based on the test results. Screening tests are intended to identify infected individuals without, or prior to development of, symptoms who may be contagious so that measures can be taken to prevent further transmission.

Symptomatic Testing: (for when individuals present symptoms while at school; individuals should not go to school if experiencing symptoms while at home): Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school using the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test or another approved diagnostic test.

"Test and Stay" (close contact testing): Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school using the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test or another approved diagnostic test. Tests are administered daily from the first day of exposure for at least five (5) days.

Test Not Processed (TNP): On rare occasions, test samples sent to the laboratory may produce a “Test Not Performed” result. When this occurs, it may be because the test sample was damaged during transportation, was contaminated, had debris that interfered with processing, or did not contain enough genetic material to return a result. In such cases, individuals will be asked to test again. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT HAPPENS IF I ALREADY TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19? SHOULD I GET TESTED?

DESE recommends that individuals who have tested positive and completed their isolation period should not participate in testing for 90 days unless they become symptomatic. They may have detectable viral genetic material that would return a positive pool result, despite the fact that they are no longer infectious.  

IS THE COVID-19 SCREENING TEST PAINFUL?

No. Unlike previous testing protocols that required a nasopharyngeal swab (the “brain tickle” test), current testing methods only require that the lower part of the nostril be swabbed in a circular motion for 15 seconds. While some participants may feel some discomfort, the majority report only a slight tickling.

WHEN WILL STUDENTS BE TESTED?

Routine COVID-19 safety checks will be performed at school during school hours. A student’s specific testing time may fluctuate during the semester.

HOW WILL SPS CONDUCT CONTACT TRACING?

The school nurses will work with the City of Somerville contact tracing program to ensure that appropriate contact tracing is followed. Positive cases and close contacts will be reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network (MAVEN) platform, as required by law. Individuals who are close contacts of a positive individual must follow one of the protocols outlined in Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines—either Test and Stay for 7 days, quarantine for 7 and test out early, or quarantine for the fully recommended 10 days. Close contacts are considered to be individuals who spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of the positive individual in a 24 hour period over the last 48 hours. HHS contact tracing staff will inform close contacts that they need to quarantine.

How many days will an individual be tested during the Test & Stay program?

The duration of the Test and Stay program is 7 days from the date of exposure. Some of these days could be non-school days (i.e., weekends or holidays). Testing is only required on school days, unless the individual participates in school-sponsored sports or extracurricular activities that fall on a non-school day (see question 8, above). If the 7th day falls over a non[1]school day, the individual must be tested on the morning of their return to school. On the 8th day, a student will exit the Test and Stay protocol, assuming all tests were negative, and they remain asymptomatic.

WHAT IS POOLED TESTING?

Pooling—sometimes referred to as pool testing or pooled testing—means combining samples from several people and conducting one laboratory test on the combined pool of samples to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

WHY IS POOLING USED?

Pooling allows laboratories to test more samples with fewer testing materials at a fraction of the cost. 

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE POOLED TEST RESULT IS NEGATIVE?

If a pooled test result is negative, then all the samples can be presumed negative with the single test. In other words, all of the people who provided samples can be assumed to test negative for SARS-CoV-2 infection. 

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE POOLED TEST RESULT IS POSITIVE?

If the pooled test result is positive, each person who provided a sample will be re-tested to determine which person(s) testing are positive.

IF MY STUDENT IS ABSENT/IF I AM ABSENT FROM SCHOOL DURING MY TESTING TIME, WHAT THEN?

At this time, participation in Routine COVID-19 Safety Checks is not mandatory, but is strongly encouraged. A student who misses Routine COVID-19 Pool Testing may be offered a rapid antigen test upon their return to the school, particularly when they are not vaccinated. Parents who wish may have their student take a home test, or visit one of the community testing sites. 

WHAT IF I NEED TO ACCESS MY NEGATIVE TEST RESULT?

Negative results will NOT be communicated to participants.

SHOULD STUDENTS OR STAFF STAY HOME IF SOMEONE IN THEIR HOME HAS SYMPTOMS RELATED TO COVID-19, BUT HASN’T BEEN TESTED YET?

Only individuals who are symptomatic themselves or close contacts of those who are confirmed to have COVID need to self-isolate (quarantine). As outlined in DPH guidance, all individuals who are symptomatic should receive a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive their test results. This means that if an individual in the student/staff member’s household is self-isolating because they are symptomatic, but not confirmed to have COVID, the student/staff member should have limited to no contact with the symptomatic individual to the extent feasible. As a result, the student/staff member should continue to attend school if they are not symptomatic. 

WILL THE TESTING PROVIDE INFO ON THE NEW VARIANT OF COVID?

No. The testing protocol will detect a positive case, but not whether the positive case is from a new variant of the virus. That requires further analysis (genome sequencing).

DO I NEED INSURANCE COVERAGE/WILL MY INSURANCE BE BILLED FOR THE TEST?

No. The Somerville Public Schools Routine COVID-19 Safety Checks program is made possible through a cost-sharing partnership between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and CIC Health. Asymptomatic and diagnostic test will be provided free of charge through the Somerville schools.

THERE IS SO MUCH TALK ABOUT NOT GOING TO SCHOOL IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT MANY PEOPLE WITH COVID DON'T GET SYMPTOMS?

One of the primary advantages in performing routine COVID-19 safety checks is that the PCR test used can detect the virus in individuals who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. That is why the SPS has adopted district-wide routine COVID-19 pooled testing protocol.