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Select Schools to Roll Out COVID-19 Testing

Local school districts selected for the state’s COVID-19 testing program are making plans to roll out their testing protocol, which could vary substantially from one district to the next.

At Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in Harwich, students will get the nasal swab right in the nurse’s office. Results are ready in 15 minutes with no special equipment.

But in the 5,000-student Barnstable district, nurses don’t have time to run COVID-19 tests, according to Pam Ciborowski, head of nursing.

“The nurses are straight out doing contact tracing and case management,” she said. “So that's why we are looking at different options.”

She said possible locations include a pediatrician’s office or public health office.

Lighthouse Charter plans to test students who show any potential COVID-19 symptom, even if it’s only something minor, like a stuffy nose, according to Paul Niles, the school’s executive director.

Students who have a minor symptom and test negative will likely go back to class.

“If a student didn't have a major symptom suite, and tested negative, then that could give us the ability to send that student back into the class with a little more backup,” Niles said.

The test is a rapid antigen test and requires follow-up with a molecular PCR test.

Right now, testing on the Cape isn’t happening fast enough for a complex situation like a school, Niles said.

“Sometimes you have to wait days and days before a test can be scheduled,” he said.

Other local districts selected to receive the tests include Bourne, Falmouth, Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, and New Bedford.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.