Scientist on Computer

Safer Teachers, Safer Students:

Back to School Pilot Testing Program

WEF is seeking donations to deliver this testing program in Wellesley.

Baseline back-to-school testing for all students and staff has been fully funded!

Additional funding will allow us to further advance our testing efforts in Wellesley, adapt to evolving needs, and provide us with the best opportunity to maximize in-person learning. Funds contributed toward this program are now supporting  teacher and student surveillance testing.

Those who had previously submitted a pledge in support of this program and who wish to convert their pledge to a donation should click the "Donate Now" button below.

Will you help us fund this program?

You can read more about this ambitious undertaking below.

For a list of frequently asked questions, please click here.

 

Overview

As we look forward to the reopening of our schools, school administrators are planning for a number of measures to ensure the ongoing safety of our students and staff. These measures include face coverings, hand washing, physical distancing, additional cleaning protocols, and isolating anyone with symptoms. While there is great confidence that these measures will be sufficient for a safe reopening of schools in Wellesley, the lack of data to provide such assurance has created a diversity of opinions among WPS teachers and staff around returning to work. Similarly, there are differences of opinions among WPS parents with regard to the actual risk posed by sending their children to attend school in-person.

In order to address these concerns and to validate that the proposed safety measures are working, a team of medical professionals and scientists across diverse communities in MA (Chelsea, Revere, Watertown, Brookline, Wellesley) are working to implement a 3-month pilot program of weekly COVID testing (a highly sensitive PCR-based test) for certain students and staff. 

 

This collaboration of communities believes that access to testing should be universal. Thus, members are proposing to work together in close coordination (as part of what is being called the Safer Teachers, Safer Students: Back-to-School Testing Coalition) to implement a plan in which nearly 250,000 SARS-CoV-2 tests would be performed. We believe this pilot will be among the first of its kind in the public school setting, both in the State of Massachusetts and in the nation. If successful, this Pilot will reduce fear and anxiety about the return-to-school, pave the way toward ensuring that in-person public school K-12 learning can continue for as long as possible, and increase safety of teachers, students and our communities as a whole. 

Testing for the program would be performed using a painless swab in the nostril called an anterior nares swab test (not the often-painful swab that enters deep into the nasal cavity), and results would come back within 24 hours. 

The pilot program is proposed to consist of:                          

  • Ensuring a path for immediate testing for anyone with symptoms

  • A one-time test for all students and staff prior to the beginning of school

  • Weekly surveillance testing of staff to monitor for asymptomatic cases

  • Weekly surveillance testing of some WPS students to monitor for asymptomatic cases

  • Surveys to parents and staff about how the program is impacting their perceptions of safety

 

What are the Benefits of a Weekly Viral Testing Program?

(1) Immediate identification of students or staff infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), allowing for rapid isolation of individuals before symptoms appear, which would lessen the chance that the infection spreads in the community.

(2) Less time in quarantine for students or staff who have COVID-like symptoms but who may just have allergies, a cold, or the flu.    

(3) Increased confidence for staff and parents in the safety of in-person learning.

(4) Data that shows that our safety measures are working, which could allow for WPS to continue in-person learning for as long as possible, even if numbers in MA go up.

(5) A possible pathway to returning to in-person learning five days a week. While this pilot program would not change WPS’s initial plans to implement a hybrid model of learning, low infection rates in our community combined with a successful testing program could open the door to revisiting full-time in-person learning.

The Need from Our Community

The cost to implement all components of this pilot program was originally estimated to be $1.5 million, though members of the testing task force have continued to evaluate various paths for implementing the proposed pilot program, both with respect to the potential viability of lower-cost options, and with respect to what components of the program the scientific advisory committee believes are most valuable and worthy of immediate implementation.

Based on advice from the testing task force's Scientific Advisory Committee, components of the program are being prioritized for funding by WPS as follows: 

(1) Ensuring a path toward immediate testing for symptomatic individuals (covered by insurance)

(2) One-time testing for all students and staff prior to returning to buildings

(3) Weekly assurance testing for teachers and staff

(4) Weekly testing for students

We are asking members of our community to donate toward funding the ongoing surveillance components of the program.

Commitment to Equity

Universal access to testing, regardless of financial means, is a core tenant of the Safer Teachers, Safer Students: Back-to-School Testing Collaboration. It is our belief that Wellesley bears a civic responsibility to lead the charge in pioneering such a program in our community, and to further advocate for funding to deliver equivalent programs in some of the hardest hit communities, so that these communities may return to school. WEF is hoping that the Wellesley community can also aid in the sourcing of ~$2 million in funds for communities in need, either directly or through connections to corporations, foundations, or other donors.

P.O. Box 812321

Wellesley, MA 02482

© 2017 Wellesley Education Foundation. Wellesley Education Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) foundation with a mission of advancing innovation and excellence in the Wellesley Public Schools. Click here to view or download our tax exemption documentation.