WESTFIELD — Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski has announced that the Test and Stay COVID-19 testing program will be available to all students and staff beginning Monday, Nov. 1.
The Test and Stay program is for students and staff considered close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, which would normally require a 10-day home quarantine.
If their parents have given permission for Test and Stay, students can take a rapid antigen test (BinaxNOW), which is a nose swab, on each school day from the date of exposure. If the test results remain negative, students may remain at school.
“We’re starting to see an increase of [COVID-19] now as the numbers in the city are starting to go up a little bit. Test and Stay is starting at a perfect time,” Czaporowski said, adding that before Test and Stay, “close contacts were sent home. With negative tests, these kids don’t have to go home.”
The district has also started to post numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in the schools at www.schoolsofwestfield.org. The numbers for the first three weeks of October can be found by clicking on “2021-2022 COVID Information,” then “Weekly COVID Cast Counts.”
The Test and Stay program is a partnership with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and CIC Health, which will staff and administer the program at no cost to the district. Only students with consent can participate in this program. Consent forms, which can be signed online, are available at www.cic-health.com/consent/ma.
CIC Health also started administering symptomatic testing this week, according to Czaporowski.
“If you have COVID-like symptoms, they will give you a test. If you test negative you can stay in school,” unless your non-COVID illness is severe enough to merit a sick day on its own. He said by ruling out COVID-19, symptomatic testing in the schools will avert the need for students to arrange for their own test, or undergo a 10-day quarantine.
Masks are still required in Westfield schools, Czaporowski said, as DESE Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley this week extended the statewide in-school mask mandate until at least Jan. 15, 2022.
“The department will continue to work with medical experts and state health officials to evaluate the mask requirement beyond Jan. 15,” Riley said in an Oct. 26 memo.
The memo also states that more than 2,200 schools have opted into DESE’s Test and Stay surveillance and symptomatic testing program to support safe, in-person learning.
“Across the state, this innovation has saved more than 48,000 days of student learning this school year,” Riley said, adding that Massachusetts is a national leader in vaccination rates for adults and currently eligible children.
Riley said with the expected announcement of the vaccine becoming available for
children ages 5-11 in the coming weeks, the extension of the mask requirement would allow time for elementary school pupils to receive the vaccine.