Shrewsbury schools launch test and stay program

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

A testing site was set up at the former Maj. Howard W. Beal School. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – A test and stay program to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools is now up and running in Shrewsbury. 

Shrewsbury Public Schools Director of Nursing Noelle Freeman told the School Committee Sept. 22 that a temporary testing site was set up at the former Maj. Howard W. Beal School. 

Test and stay is optional, school officials note.

“It’s a way for close contacts who are identified to cases at school to avoid the need to stay home and quarantine,” Freeman said. 

‘The primary goal is to keep kids in school and keep them learning’

As of the Sept. 22 School Committee meeting, the program had been up and running for eight days. Eighty-nine people has participated, with 153 tests administered. There had been one positive test, Freeman said.

“The primary goal is to keep kids in school and keep them learning,” said Superintendent Joseph Sawyer. 

Freeman said the testing site, which is drive-through, is open every morning on school days.

As Freeman explained it, if the person tests negative and is asymptomatic, they can proceed to school for the day. 

“It really does help get kids and staff, if they qualify, back to school as quickly as possible,” Freeman said.

This is not an effort unique to Shrewsbury. It’s part of a larger state program offering diagnostic and pooled testing to districts. Westborough school officials specifically discussed their participation back in August, emphasizing ways test and stay could be more effective than the pooled testing that was prevalent in the 2020-2021 school year.

Hudson officials talked about test and stay protocols on Sept. 21, though they noted the state’s provider of tests had been experiencing delays.

School officials optimistic about current case rate

School Committee member Dale Magee asked if students participating in test and stay were still taking the bus. 

Once the students are cleared, Freeman said they’re clear for activities, including taking the bus. 

Shrewsbury Schools Superintendent Joseph Sawyer noted that Massachusetts has one of the country’s lowest COVID-19 test positivity rates at just 2.08 percent.

“I know there were some concerns that when students went back to school, we would see this potential explosion of cases among young people,” Sawyer said. “We’re not really seeing that. We’re certainly seeing an uptick, but it’s not something that is of the concern some people were worried about.”

The town reported an additional 31 positive cases since Sept. 17. In his report, Sawyer reported seven positive cases so far that week. Sawyer said six of those people were in school during their infectious period. One of the cases was traced to a possible exposure in school. 

Speaking  on  Sept.  22, School Committee  member Lynsey  Heffernan  praised the  work of the  nursing  and health services  department, recalling calls  that she’s  received  from  the  nurses  office in  the  first  couple  of  weeks  of school. 

“This  is  really  complicated and  is  not  straightforward, and is ever-evolving. I want to thank all of the staff who work with you,” she said.