Framingham Schools To Pilot Free COVID Testing Program For Staff; Weekly Tests Could Cost District $2.184 Million

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FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham Public School District is “in the process of providing a voluntary and free pilot COVID-19 PCR testing program for our in-person staff during December 2020. The district will evaluate the data gathered during this pilot program and develop a plan for COVID testing for the coming months,” wrote Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay to the 9-member School Committee today, December 11.

“The COVID-19 PCR tests will be administered by highly trained technicians; test results will be available within 24-48 hours. An invite will be sent out to all in-person staff who work in the schools on a regular daily basis to take advantage of COVID testing during this pilot period. A schedule of weekly testing will be provided to each school,” wrote Tremblay.

“PCR Testing for staff and students is an extraordinary cost consideration for the successful return to school. Individualized, proactive testing like this comes with little to no financial support from federal or state appropriations, but our district and School Committee in partnership with the Framingham Department of Public Health has nevertheless identified this step as critical for our community,” wrote Tremblay.

The cost per test is $70 and there is about 1,200 staffers in the public school district.

With 26 weeks of school between January and June 2020, that would be about $2,200 per staffer, said the memo to the School Committee.

The total cost to the district is estimated at $2.184 million.

“Weekly PCR testing is a necessary component of our overall return to school effort. Testing, coupled with our risk mitigation efforts like required face coverings, hand-washing, and physical distancing, is the manner in which we will be able to restore confidence in our return to school efforts,” wrote Tremblay.

Presently, no students are in the classrooms in the district.

Students in Phase I and II – about 500 to 550 students – went fully remote on Monday, December 7, after cases began to increase in the district.

There have been 34 total cases in the school district, but 17 of those cases have happened in December.

The Superintendent has targeted January 4 as when hybrid learning with in-person classes can begin. The Framingham Public School district has about 9,000 students.

About 90% of the parents in Phase III and IV returned their commitment forms to the district and 5.19% want in-person learning, with 37.6% wanting to stay in remote learning.

Framingham has had a total of 4,100, coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. Framingham has about 75,000 residents.

More than 20% of all the cases in the City of Framingham during the pandemic have been diagnosed since Thanksgiving.

Framingham was averaging 8 cases per day around Labor Day, the City of Framingham is now at 63 cases per day per 100,000 people.

Tremblay and Executive Director of Finance & Operations Lincoln Lynch IV told the School Committee that the ESSER CARES Act could cover $1.3 million of the needed $2.184 million needed to test staff weekly during the 2020-21 school year.

The district is hopeful that new CVRF fund would cover an additional $250,000 for weekly COVID tests for staff, but that would still leave a shortfall of about $735,000.

“On Monday, December 14, 2020, members of the FPS COVID Team, Dr. Wong, Lincoln Lynch and I will be meeting with representatives from the Shah Family Foundation to discuss an in-district surveillance testing pilot that has been made available to urban districts in Massachusetts in an effort to restore confidence with the return to school through the implementation of PCR surveillance testing for students and staff,” wrote Tremblay to School Committee.

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