Dear Masconomet Community,
As I begin this update on the status of our testing programs, I need to emphasize that the simplest way to remain in school after any exposure to COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual are exempt from any quarantine or testing protocols as long as they remain asymptomatic. Vaccines are widely available in Massachusetts. Go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ to find a vaccination site near you.
The Masconomet Regional District applied to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s “Test and Stay” and “Symptomatic Testing” Programs on Wednesday, August 11, 2021. We received notice that we had been accepted to these programs on Thursday, August 12. The “Test and Stay” Program allows a student or staff member who was a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual in school to continue to attend school as long as they submit to a daily rapid COVID Test, remain asymptomatic and follow additional health and safety protocols while in school. The “Symptomatic Testing” Program allows any staff member or student who develops COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to take a rapid COVID-19 test to assist in deciding whether the individual should remain in school or be sent home for further evaluation.
DESE has awarded the contract for running all Massachusetts Testing Programs to an outside vendor, CIC Health. CIC Health is now in the process of hiring the staff necessary to provide the services promised by DESE. In signing up for the Test and Stay and Symptomatic Testing programs, DESE promised to supply the resources necessary to run the program with minimal support from us. We would be provided a Program Coordinator as the primary point of contact for the district, the personnel necessary for conducting the onsite testing of students and staff, the necessary materials, including the testing kits, and the necessary training for our staff on any aspect of the program, including the administration of the actual rapid tests and the software for collecting parent permission for testing students. We applied to participate in these testing programs based on this level of support offered by DESE as we do not have the personnel or the resources in-house to conduct these programs on our own.
As of today, September 16, 2021, we have had minimal response from CIC Health regarding the details of the testing programs we signed up for in August. This is despite repeated emails and phone calls from Masconomet to both CIC Health and to DESE over the past several weeks. At 5:00 PM on September 15, I received an email from CIC with the subject “COVID Testing Welcome Email and Program Coordinator Introduction.” This email contained two email addresses for our Program Coordinators. This morning, I sent an email to both of the supplied addresses asking for immediate assistance and am waiting for a response.
Once we hear from our Program Coordinators, there are many details that will need to be worked out before we are able to begin our Test and Stay Program. We will need to collect permission from parents to be able to test students. We will also need to ensure that CIC has sufficient personnel assigned to us to conduct the daily testing of students and staff at Masconomet that is part of the Test and Stay program, and that we have the necessary supplies and routines in place to conduct this testing. In order to have all of this in place, I anticipate that it will take several weeks before we are able to implement our testing programs.
I will provide updates as more information regarding our testing programs becomes available. I understand and share your frustration that this is not getting done sooner. We are doing everything in our power to implement this program as quickly as possible.