SALEM, MA — Salem Public Schools will participate in the state's new coronavirus testing system for students and staff.
Salem Superintendent Steve Zrike said on Wednesday that the district opted in to the new program that makes students and staff who enroll eligible for weekly rapid at-home tests and eliminates the school-based "test-and-stay" and contact tracing programs.
Salem will maintain its symptomatic and pool testing programs. While most contact tracing will be eliminated, Zrike said nurses will have the ability to contact trace in the event where a cluster of positive cases among students or staff is suspected.
Families must register students for the at-home tests even if they are already enrolled in the pool testing. They should expect an email on Thursday with more details on the program and the option to enroll. Families not currently enrolled in school testing can sign up for the at-home tests as well.
Each student and staff member will receive a box of two tests to be used once each week. Parents of students who test positive are expected to notify the school and follow coronavirus quarantine guidance.
Participation in the new program is voluntary.
"It's really up to the family to use it at home," Zrike said. "We are going to provide you an opportunity to sign up again now, which we really hope you do."
Zrike said the at-home tests will be made available to staff this week with students who sign up to get their first packet of tests next week.
The new state guidance replaces the contact tracing and test-and-stay programs that have been widely praised for keeping in-school transmission relatively low but are also heavily taxing on school nurses' offices.
The state made the decision whether to make the switch optional, at least for now, for districts with the choice having far-reaching consequences on how the virus will be mitigated in schools as the omicron spike wanes and districts enter the third year of pandemic response.
"We really hope that your child participates in this program," Zrike said.
(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)
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