Test to Stay Program Information & Update

Posted on: September 10, 2021

Good morning families,

First, thank you for your support and understanding as we work to support your student through our new Test to Stay program. As you are now seeing, this program allows us to use rapid antigen test at the moment we identify that your student has been a close contact of a positive case while at school. If your student is negative (which all of your students are), we can then use those rapid tests each day. As long as students remain negative each day, this process allows us to avoid quarantining students and continue their learning and support with us in school.  We have been collecting information about the program that we would like to share – I apologize for the delay in sending this out as we are actively building and implementing this program and these communications. Please email me (cbanks@salemk12.org) if you have questions or feedback.

There are a few important details to ensure you know about the program:

  1. Our rapid tests are good at finding active infections, and are very accurate if they are positive. Because they produce results on site (and not in a lab where additional steps can be taken to increase accuracy), the test is best when repeated if they are negative. We test daily because students can go from negative to positive in just one day. This is related to the incubation period of COVID-19 and the possibility of the test not being as accurate. The science and research behind the program therefore instructs us to conduct these tests daily for seven days.
  2. Students are still considered close contacts during this period. Therefore, they are asked to quarantine other than going to school. This does mean that students should not participate in plans or playdates with others, especially over the weekend when they have not had their daily test.
  3. Families are asked to actively self monitor for symptoms for the full 14 day period. At the end of this message is a reminder of the symptoms. If students have any symptoms, they must remain home until symptoms improve and they have a negative PCR test. If this occurs, we encourage families to contact their primary care provider and the school nurse for more detailed instructions. 

In addition, our technology platform is still catching up to our program, particularly if you provided new consent to be part of the program this week. Each day that we do this testing, we do record and report those results. We believe you have been or will be receiving individual results from the testing platform, and you may receive multiple at one time once the system catches up this week. These will reflect the tests we have already completed but might not have been sent to you yet. We apologize for the delay and appreciate your support.
In case it is helpful and you want to learn more, below are a few additional details:

  • The tests are simple, shallow nasal swabs. Occasionally, students report them tickling but they are generally not uncomfortable. They only go into the lower nostril – five times around on each side.  
  • These are the same tests you can now purchase over the counter at CVS and Walmart – Abbott Binax Now rapid tests. Our schools, testing teams, and nurses are trained and authorized to use the tests and report the results to the state so at school a nurse or testing team member performs the test and reads the result. Our testing kits are also verified before use, which is not possible at home. Studies have shown this to provide more accurate results than the at home collection, including specific research here in Massachusetts on asymptomatic children last year that helped the state design this program. As a note, the at home tests are also recommended to be repeated, which is why they are sold in sets of two.

If you have additional questions or feedback, please feel free to reach out to me directly. Thank you again for your support and partnership as we work to best support your students and families.

With gratitude,

Reminder: Symptoms of COVID-19 (slightly updated this school year to reflect closer research into the virus).

  • Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
  • Sore throat when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when in combination with other symptoms
  • Headache when in combination with other symptoms
  • Fatigue when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms


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