September 10, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer
Interim Supt. of Schools Gary Maestas provided details to the School Committee this week about the voluntary "Test and Stay" model that will be implemented in the Hingham Public Schools starting Monday, Sept. 13, following an initial discussion in August.
This Massachusetts Department of Education model is designed to keep students in school until they test positive for COVID-19 to allow as much in-person learning time as possible. Parental consent is required for a student to participate.
A "test and stay" approach allows students who have been in "close contact" with another student who tested positive to be tested daily as opposed to having to quarantine right away. Tests are administered every day from the first day of exposure for at least five days.
If a student tests negative, he or she would be able to attend school that day. If a test comes up positive, quarantine protocols would be followed.
In order for a student to stay in school once being notified that he or she is a close contact, the student must be enrolled in the Test and Stay program.
"If a student who has been identified as a close contact is unvaccinated and is not participating in the program, he or she will be required to quarantine, consistent with protocols established by the Hingham Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health," according to School Committee member Nes Correnti, who posted details of the program on Facebook.
An "informed consent" is required from parents/guardians of HPS students who wish for their children to participate. The consent portal is run by CIC Health and is available at https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma. Parents may opt out their children at any time.
The CIC Health program allows individual school districts to make the choice as to what testing will be done for that particular district. "If a parent/guardian decides to opt in, they are opting into the program their school district has selected," Correnti told the Hingham Anchor.
"In the case of HPS, we are doing a routine COVID-19 safety check, Test and Stay and symptomatic testing for students in grades K-6 and Test and Stay and symptomatic testing for students in grades 7-12," she said.
As a School Committee member who is also a parent, Correnti thinks that routine testing in school is key to a safe return. "I believe it will allow for the most in-person learning possible, as students who enroll will no longer have to stay home to quarantine when they are [first] notified that they are a close contact."
The Test and Stay model will allow those close contacts to be monitored in school. "I have two children who are vaccinated but one who is not vaccine-eligible yet," Correnti said, "and it gives me comfort knowing I am helping to protect my unvaccinated child."
The HPS administration continues to receive information from the state on the Test and Stay model and will provide updates when available. (See the flowchart below for more information about what happens if a child tests positive for COVID-19 or becomes a close contact.)