Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge Public Health Department Announce Staff COVID-19 Testing Program

Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge Public Health Department Announce Staff COVID-19 Testing Program
Posted on 09/14/2020
The Cambridge Public Schools and Cambridge Public Health Department announced today that all school staff working in-person will be provided with free COVID-19 testing twice per week through a partnership with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) is among a few Massachusetts school districts implementing a comprehensive COVID-19 testing strategy.

“We are pleased to announce this robust testing strategy for CPS as we plan for the critical work of in-person learning for students who have the greatest needs. This is one of many efforts that we are employing to make our classrooms and schools as safe as possible for our students and staff," said Superintendent Kenneth Salim.

In addition to surveillance testing of onsite staff, easily accessible testing will be available in all buildings on an ongoing basis for staff and students who become ill with COVID-like symptoms during the school day, or receive notification while at school that they should be tested (for instance, due to a close contact testing positive for the virus).

"This comprehensive testing plan would not be possible without the efforts of Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, the Cambridge School Committee and the Cambridge Public Health Department who have kept testing, and the health and safety of our students and staff, at the forefront during the re-opening planning process,” said Superintendent Salim. CPS has also launched this effort in partnership with the Cambridge Education Association (CEA), which represents educators and many staff in the district.

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui stated, “It took a lot of hard work to make this happen, and I’m relieved to see that our efforts have led to a partnership between CPS and the City to meet this fundamental prerequisite to a safe reopening. If there is any place that can do this, it’s Cambridge.”

CPS’s Back-to-School plan takes a staged approach that gives all families the option for remote learning and prioritizes in-person opportunities for the district’s youngest students and those with greatest needs. All students will begin school virtually on September 16. Eligible students whose families choose to opt-in will begin in-person learning four days a week beginning October 13.

Mayor Siddiqui and Superintendent Salim also announced that the public health department will hire and manage additional health aides who under the supervision of a school-based RN, will provide Covid testing for symptomatic students and staff. With the combination of the surveillance testing of staff, other layers of safety precautions, the use of robust public health metrics, and a daily health checklist, CPS is at the forefront of COVID-19 safety for public schools nationally.

“Surveillance testing among teachers is the best means to control or prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. This will also be the best measure to keep schools safe and can prevent the closure of entire school buildings,” said Claude A. Jacob, Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department. “Ultimately, we need these data to stay informed of the impact of COVID-19 within our schools and the Cambridge community.”

The voluntary COVID-19 testing program for the Cambridge Public Schools is funded by the City of Cambridge.

Other CPS safety and health precautions include: a focus on air ventilation quality through CO2 meters, HEPA air scrubbers, box fans; additional custodial staff, increased cleaning and sanitation procedures; electrostatic disinfectant sprayers; installation of 100 new sinks and hand sanitizer dispensers; an abundance of personal protective equipment, and a number of procedures to ensure social distancing and mask wearing.
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