EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ – The East Brunswick School District is partnering with Middlesex County and town officials to implement a new COVID testing model for students and staff members, the County announced Wednesday.
This comes after over a 100 students and staff were quarantined in the school district due to “close contacts” with COVID-19.
Under the pilot testing program students, faculty and staff will get tested on a voluntary basis by onsite school nurses, using COVID-19 saliva test kits. Results will be available in 48 hours.
Students will require parental consent to participate, while staff can participate upon their discretion. The more participants that join this pilot program, the more impactful the outcome for combating COVID-19 in schools, said County officials.
Testing will be provided at no cost.
Apart from contact tracing, the new program hopes to prevent and dramatically reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the district schools.
School Superintendent Victor Valeski said that the testing would greatly reduce the number of COVID cases.
“This model for testing a vast population at once and using statistical analysis to predict outbreaks will put us ahead of the COVID-19 curve. If this pilot proves successful, we anticipate many more townships across Middlesex County to implement a similar testing model at their schools to proactively fight this virus with the goal of bringing students back to a regular educational routine,” Valeski said in a statement.
Mayor Brad Cohen said the new testing model could help bring students and teachers back to "normalcy" since having their lives changed due to the pandemic.
“In-person learning is critical for effective and quality education. As we slowly welcome students back to our facilities, we want to provide peace of mind to parents, students and faculty that we’re using the latest technologies and innovating at every turn to combat COVID-19 head-on,” Cohen said in a statement.
East Brunswick began its school year with the hybrid learning model, while most neighboring school districts started with remote learning, choosing to pivot to the hybrid model only at a later date.
“We’re taking drastic and aggressive measures to protect the County’s student, faculty and staff population during the school year,” said Freeholder Director Ronald Rios in a statement.
“In this unprecedented time in history, we’re making bold moves. Partnering with the Township of East Brunswick on this pilot testing program shows our commitment to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our students and staff as they continue their education during a pandemic,” he said.
What Is This New Testing Model?
Early this summer, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) deployed its COVID-19 testing model, utilizing a mathematical algorithm. This was done to promote the safety of its cadets as they returned for training on-site.
A percentage of the cadet population were tested on a scheduled weekly basis and then randomly. Based on statistics provided by the testing, officials were able to ascertain information needed to identify positive COVID-19 cases quickly. This allowed contract tracing to begin immediately, helping in curbing the spread of the virus. Since the testing program began there has been less than 1% of COVID-19 cases reported at the USAFA.
The East Brunswick model will look similar. Testing will happen on a voluntary basis of 15 percent of the student and staff population at one time. After each group is tested, the statistics gathered would be analyzed for further actions, including additional testing of samples, contact tracing, etc.
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