WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District on Thursday completed a successful first week of pool testing for COVID-19 among its students and staff.
"It's amazing how empowering it is for a child to see they just did something with something the size of a Q-tip that has the power to determine if a virus is in them so they can take care of themselves and their family and their friends," Business Manager Joe Begeron told the School Committee on Thursday night. "Every student I saw today had a really positive experience, a really positive outlook for what this means."
Mount Greylock was one of the first districts to sign up and take advantage of a state-sponsored pool testing program. Essentially, samples (non-invasive nasal swabs) from a batch of individuals are bundled together into a single sample that is analyzed in the lab.
If the batched sample turns up negative, then all the contributors to the sample are assumed negative. If a batched sample tests positive, further tests are ordered for individuals who were part of that batch.
"Tuesday and today were our testing days this week," Bergeron said. "Next week, we'll be testing on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. We've tried to align with the same days of the week that [Williams College] has its courier service running to the laboratory in Cambridge. The college has been a great partner in this and has extended their help in sharing that resource, that courier service, with us, which is a huge help.
"So far, we've had all negative test results, which is fantastic. That's from our first week with staff only prior to break, and we received our results for Tuesday's testing late last night, and it was all negative for everyone who participated."
Bergeron reported that as of Thursday, about 700 of the district's 1,100 students had opted in to the program. And he expects more families to sign the permission forms that will allow their children to be tested.
"When you say 'test,' everyone recoils a little bit," Bergeron said. "But the way our staff was able to work with students to make it part of the school day, make it quick but make it something positive we're doing for the community at large was awesome.
"That's a long way to say I think participation will go up."
Superintendent Jason McCandless credited Bergeron and the school nurses at Lanesborough Elementary School, Williamstown Elementary and Mount Greylock Regional School for developing the logistical plan to make communitywide testing possible.
"The application process was arduous," McCandless said. "The organization of it was a massive undertaking, and it was really Joe and our three school nurses and school principals. Joe, Nicole [Russell], Kathy [Larson] and Carol [Stein-Payne], our school nurse team did a massive amount of work in rolling up their sleeves and making this possible.
"Joe and the three school nurses are heroes."
Bergeron praised teamwork needed to coordinate tests across the district's three schools, using venues that ranged from the classroom to the playground during mask breaks to drive-up testing.
He said staff and students who are participating in school remotely are welcome and encouraged to participate in the testing program.
"The nurses pulled out all the stops, and when we asked for participation from the staff, the staff was really excited about it," Bergeron said. "It's yet another thing we're asking staff to figure out that's new and certainly not normal. Across all three buildings, it's been amazing."
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