Last week, I shared the Northborough and Public Schools of Southborough’s update on its Covid screening program for students. The district’s February 5th newsletter stated the program would begin in early March. Apparently, that referred to the district-wide rollout. A pilot of the program already launched this week at four of the district’s schools.
The free screening is taking place at Woodward and Neary elementary schools in Southborough and two Northborough schools. The news was shared with Southborough School Committee members during last night’s meeting.
In the update, Wellness Director Mary Ellen Duggan said she hopes to be able to expand the pilot to more schools the last week of February. They are targeting the first week of March for implementation at all ten schools. (Plans to increase in-person learning in K-8 schools later in March will be voted on in tonight’s special joint meeting of the Southborough and Northborough School Committees.)
Superintendent Gregory Martineau noted that Tuesday’s snow storm, shifting that day to remote only learning, did complicate the launch. Asked about the enrollment percentages (about 50%), Duggan clarified that those numbers include SARP (remote only) students. There were no figures available last night on the percent of Hybrid students participating at the schools.
Duggan said that getting the required initial consent forms makes the first week of the program more difficult. After that, the process should be smoother. In discussions about ways to better inform and convince parents to participate, she opined that word of mouth between parents will be the most effective. The administration also noted that communications from principals and teachers get more attention from parents than the district-wide announcements.
School Committee member Jessica Devine suggested that communications should clearly highlight that the test doesn’t require pushing the swab far up children’s nostrils. Referring to tests early in the pandemic that put uncomfortable/painful pressure on eyeballs, she indicated parents might not realize how easy the samples are to take.
Upon questioning about the response time for the pooled-testing screening program, Duggan said results came back by midnight on Saturday for swabs she shipped out last Friday. (It appears she was referring to staff swabs, since this is the first week of the student screening pilot.)
In addition to the pooled screening of asymptomatic students and staff, the district has made available dedicated testing for those with symptoms.
Duggan also informed the Committee that she will be enhancing the district’s weekly Dashboard to include more details. One of the new data points will be information on any possible in-school transmissions at any NSBORO schools. (Currently, parents only receive information about the schools their children attend.)