COVID-19 pooled testing program for asymptomatic students and staff at our schools.
Posted by Monica Crowley on 3/1/2021 7:00:00 AM
Dear Staff, Parents, and Guardians,
We are writing to share important information about our plans to continue with asymptomatic testing of staff and, as we had previously indicated, to begin to incorporate student testing. We would like to thank all of you for your continued partnership during this unprecedented school year. Together, through mitigation strategies, we continue the work of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in our schools.
Following our initial program of individual testing for asymptomatic staff, we have worked closely with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to implement aCOVID-19 pooled testing program for asymptomatic students and staff at our schools.
Pooled testing involves mixing several asymptomatic individuals’ test samples together into one “pool” and then testing the pooled sample for COVID-19. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested at one time and allows us to regularly test our school community for COVID-19.
The voluntary weekly asymptomatic pooled tests will begin the week of March 1st.
March 2nd - All interested student-facing staff
March 9th and 11th - All interested students in grade 9-12 and all student-facing staff
March 16th and 18th - All interested studentsgrades 6-12 and all student-facing staff
March 23rd and 25th - All interested students PreK-12 and all student-facing staff
This test requires an observed shallow nasal swab for all participating individuals. Schools will receive the pool results within 24-48 hours. If the result of a pool is negative, then all individuals are presumed to not have COVID-19. If the result of a pool is positive, then all individuals in the pool must be retested individually. Because pooled testing does not give individual results, participating staff or parentswill only be notified if individual follow-up testing is required. Our school will be providing the Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Tests for follow-up or “reflex” testing which allows students or staff in a positive pool to be tested as soon as possible and receive individual results in 15 minutes.
Our staff has been thoroughly trained on how to administer pooled testing, as well as the Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Tests should they be needed for follow-up testing. A school nurse will contact you if you or your child is part of a positive pool and requires follow-up testing. Once completed, you will be notified of the individual testing results, whether positive or negative positive, and advised on what to do in each scenario.
All participants must be willing and able to commit to following up with the reflex test if they are notified that you or your child was in a positive pool. This reflex test will be administered at a central location, likely the high school. The reflex test will be scheduled and as quickly as results are shared with us. We anticipate reflex tests to be done on Wednesdays from 1-5 pm for those who tested on Tuesday and on Friday from 1-5 for those who tested on Thursday. There is a possibility that this reflex test would need to be performed on a Saturday morning if the results from Thursday’s pool are not returned within 24 hours.
PSB will report all positive follow-up test results to DPH.
We will send out sign-up and consent information separately, from each individual school in the coming days.
The program offered by DESE is available until March 28th. At the completion of this program, we will review our data and make decisions about the best options for proceeding with voluntary asymptomatic pooled testing.
The Public Schools of Brookline are extremely grateful to our committed staff and families that continue to show great flexibility and resilience as we navigate through this school year. It takes all of us working together to contain the spread of this virus. We are excited to add pooled testing as another mitigation strategy for our school community, as we continue to work together toward the safe return of all students and staff to the school.
I hope everyone had a joyful and restful break. The snow was in abundance and I have heard great stories from students who had so much fun playing outside, snowshoeing for the first time, building snow people, drinking lots of hot cocoa, cuddling up to read with family members and more. What could be better?
Now that we are back, we have a great stretch to continue our robust teaching and learning both in the building and in Hybrid Learning. We heard from Interim Superintendent Marini at the February 18th school committee meeting that we are still confirmed for all first grade students to return five days a week on Monday, March 1st. He also shared the proposed plan to have all students in grades 2-5 return on March 29th, five days a week is under review. More to follow from Dr. Marini about that plan.
Tuesday, March 2nd, New Dates for Lawrence Reads: 6:30pm
Friday, March 12th-K-8 Early Release Day: 12:30pm Dismissal
(International/Family Fun Night!)
Tuesday, March 16th-Cohort B comes to the building and cohort A learns at home.
Monday, March 29th-K-8 Early Release Day: 12:30 Dismissal
(Possible start date for grades 2-5 to return five days a week.)
Friday, April 2nd-No School due to Good Friday
Tuesday, April 6th-K-12 Early Release Day: 12:40pm Dismissal
Monday, April 12th-K-8 Early Release Day: 12:30 Dismissal
Monday April 19th-Friday, April 23rd-April Break-NO School
Thank you to the many parents/caregivers who participated in the PTO/Principal Forums these past two weeks. We completed the third round of forums, one for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8. We will hold two more rounds in March and May. Dates and links will be shared with families, as we get closer to the dates as we have done since September.
March 10 (Wednesday)-K-2: 4-5pm
March 11-(Thursday)-3-5: 4-5pm
March 16-(Tuesday)-6-8: 4:15-5:15pm
May 11 (Tuesday)-K-2: 7-8pm
May 12 (Wednesday)-3-5: 7-8pm
May 13 (Thursday)-6-8: 7-8pm
These forums are important and useful as they provide us with the opportunities to come together, and hear from staff and the PTO as to how we are working together at home and in school to meet the needs of all students. There were many staff who shared updates as to the teaching and learning-taking place in school during the Hybrid Learning Model. We also learned about the traditional events that the PTO plans to continue, albeit virtually.
I am excited that we will continue these wonderful Lawrence community-building events. Thank you PTO!
Monday, January 18, 2021 is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We do not have school on this federal holiday. I hope we are all able to take time every day and especially on Monday to think about the legacy and accomplishments of Dr. King, and how we, too, can serve our communities to support social and racial justice.
PTO/Principal Forums: Round 3!
We held the K-2 forum this past Wednesday. Parents shared that they really enjoyed and learned from the staff presentations about literacy, library and math supports for our students in kindergarten, first grade and second grade.
The grades 3-5 Forum will be on Tuesday, January 19th
The grades 6-8 Forum will be on Thursday, January 21st.
I am very pleased to announce that the Town of Brookline approved our request for emergency funds to support COVID-19 testing in 2021.
I want you to know how grateful we are for your continued dedication and commitment to your students in these uncertain times. Your health and safety is a priority. While all of the details are still being worked out, and more details can be found below, here is what I can tell you about the new program at this point:
In January, the PSB will begin offering a new weekly asymptomatic testing program.
The program is expected to be 8-10 weeks long.
We are offering this program at no cost to all PSB staff who regularly interact with students, full time and part time.
This program is completely voluntary. If you must pause your participation or join after the opening date, that can be arranged with advance notice, although consistent participation is best and important for monitoring health in our buildings.
The test is a self-administered nasal swab that will then be collected at your PSB building. Complete and specific instructions will be sent in January. There are many different approaches to swabbing and collection that our peer districts are using. So for the first few weeks we will all need to be flexible and experiment with different processes to determine what works best for us in Brookline.
You will typically receive your results within 24 hours to an email address you provide.
If you develop COVID symptoms or are identified as a close contact, please do what you do now (seek immediate guidance from your healthcare provider, and as needed, get yourself tested and/or quarantine). This new program does not replace our current procedure for individuals with symptoms or who have been identified as close contacts.
Even though our PSB in-school transmission numbers have not been a concern to date, we are introducing this program in January because COVID cases have risen to a level in Massachusetts that are concerning statewide. We wanted to provide this extra layer of protection for you as we all wait to hear about a timeline for a vaccine rollout for the public schools. This testing is one more part of many investments in health and safety that began in June and ramped up in August/September. Our staff colleagues and volunteers have worked very hard and have improved our ventilation and HVAC systems, provided personal protective equipment for our staff, increased disinfecting and cleaning of our buildings, created procedures for distancing and cohorts, provided an in-town testing option especially for symptomatic individuals and close contacts, and many other safety precautions.
I wanted to get this information to you as we begin the winter recess, and I will provide more complete information in January. Some additional background information can also be found below.
Additional details about the planned testing program:
I would particularly like to thank those who worked so hard to make this happen for us. This effort has been spearheaded by Tricia Laham, Coordinator of School Health Services, and I am grateful to our entire nursing team who will help administer this program. I am also grateful to Dr. Swannie Jett, Commissioner of Public Health and his staff; Mel Kleckner, Town Administrator and Justin Casanova-Davis, Assistant Town Administrator; and our team of four parent volunteers: Grady Clouse, Dr. Nira Pollock, Dr. Jenny Tam, and School Committee member Susan Wolf Ditkoff. Without their tireless efforts over weeks, nights, and weekends, we would not be able to offer this program.
On Thursday, December 17, the Brookline Advisory Committee approved $500,000 of emergency funds for COVID-19 testing in 2021. $300,000 of those funds are dedicated to a new weekly voluntary asymptomatic testing program for all of our student-facing Public Schools of Brookline educators and staff. Funds will also support some surveillance testing for middle and high school students in our hybrid learning program, grades 6-12. Student-facing staff were identified as the top priority for testing with older students as a secondary priority; it was not recommended that younger students be routinely tested. The other $200,000 is dedicated to continuing the Town testing site (currently run by mPathy, primarily for symptomatic and close contact cases). Any uninsured members of the Brookline community who have symptoms or are identified as close contacts will have their costs covered by the Town (this does not apply to people without symptoms). These funds are expected to last for the first 2-3 months of 2021.
We hope that providing this voluntary testing program for student-facing staff will provide reassurance to our PSB staff and provide data that will allow PSB to confirm the effectiveness of our COVID-19 mitigation practices and evaluate any additional measures that may be needed. Real-time, system-wide information will also help provide specific action steps and peace of mind for our entire school community.
I hope everyone had a productive remote snow day yesterday and a traditional fun, snow day today.
Please remember that we have school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Cohort B will go to school on Tuesday, December 22nd and cohort A will be remote at home. Although it is Tuesday, we will follow a Thursday schedule district wide. Wednesday will be a typical remote day for grades 1-8 and an in school day for Kindergarten students.
The December break starts on Thursday, December 24th. School will be closed for all students until Monday, January 4, 2020 when all kindergarten students and cohort A returns to the building.
The PSBMA librarians invite families to participate in a district-wide Mock Caldecott activity, a picture book award program for students in grades K-5.
What will we do?
● LEARN about the Caldecott Medal and the criteria the Caldecott Committee uses in judging. ● READ twelve possible winners of the 2021 Caldecott Medal. ● VOTE! In late January, students and families will vote (via a Google Form) for the one picture book they believe is most worthy of the Caldecott. The official Caldecott announcement will be made on January 27th. We will compare our selections with the committee’s choices! ● Supplement your reading: materials for this program will be posted on the Brookline K-8 Library Remote Learning website.
Where can we find the books?
● Thanks to the Brookline Education Foundation (BEF) we have purchased additional copies of the books in e-book format. They are available through your school library’s catalog. ● Many of our school libraries own print and e-book versions of the titles. Go to your school library’s catalog to see what’s available. ● The Brookline Public Library and Boston Public Library may also have copies.
Thank you to all the parents, caregivers and staff who particpated in our November PTO/Principal forums the last two weeks. We were abe to review and discuss the successes of the hybrid learning model, and how students, staff and families have adjusted to the new routines and schedules. Congratulations to all!
Wednesday, November 25th: School closes at noon for Thanksgiving Break
Thursday, November 26th: No School-Thanksgiving
Friday, November 27th: No school for Thanksgiving Break
Early Release Days for Grades K-8:
1. Thursday, December 3-Grades K-8 dismissed early at 12:40pm
2. Tuesday, December 8-Grades K-8 dismissed early at 12:40pm
Annual Cranberry Counting:
Every year for the past 50+ years Lawrence teachers and students estimate how many cranberries are in a jar. This year we have a touchless way to see the jar, make your estimate, and enter to win a bookstore gift card if your estimate is the closest in your category.
From Interim Superintendent Marini on November 17th:
In these unprecedented times, I understand the desire to want to maintain the holiday traditions that anchor us to family and friends, but this year is different. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19 and that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. In addition to the CDC guidance, Mass.gov has issued travel regulations. Most notably, if you visit a high-risk state, you must fill out a travel form and either produce a negative COVID-19 test administered up to 72 hours prior to returning to Massachusetts or quarantine for 14 days.