December 8, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
The Hingham Public Schools district has for several weeks been exploring options for providing COVID testing for staff, perhaps on a weekly basis, "to help them feel safer in our schools," according to Supt. of Schools Paul Austin.
After consulting with school nurses and the Hingham Health Department, he met with a medical logistics company last week to explore the options, he told the School Committee last night during a remote meeting.
Austin is working with CIC Medical to move forward with a testing program through BROAD Laboratories in Boston while collaborating with the town's COVID Response Team, HPS administration, the HPS physician, and the Health Department.
"All agree about the importance of testing to assist in the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. [Regular testing will also] help us move toward [full] in-person learning," Austin said.
The plan is to phase-in implementation beginning with elementary staff in order to work through potential logistical issues and then to move on to the middle and high schools as soon as possible.
The testing would involve several hundred staff members, with test results available in approximately 24 hours.
"This would be more than our school nurses could handle, so we many need to seek community volunteers to assist in the testing process," Austin said.
The cost per test is between $35 and $40, money that would be well-spent, he stated. "The cost would be between $25,000 to $30,000 a week for I'm not sure how long." The CARES Act is expected to cover testing expenses through the end of December. It's not yet clear whether additional state and federal funding will be available after that.
Austin plans to establish a COVID Testing Task Force to make a recommendation regarding how to best implement the testing.
School Committee Chair Kerry Ni thanked Austin for his efforts. "This is a major way to help get kids back into the schools and to get a really good handle on what the spread of COVID is or what it isn't."
The goal would be to begin the first round of testing before the winter break later this month or as soon as possible afterwards, starting with staff but possibly extending testing to students at a later date.