SWAMPSCOTT, MA — Swampscott Public Schools will participate in the state's new coronavirus testing system for students and staff.
Swampscott Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said told the School Committee Wednesday night 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.
Swampscott will maintain its symptomatic and pool testing programs.
Families must register students for the at-home tests even if they are already enrolled in the pool testing.
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.
While the program is optional statewide, Angelakis said the district will be asking those who participate to upload their results each week.
"Do we require the negatives to upload?" she said. "I say if you're signing up for this program, upload your results negative or positive, and maybe we back off the negatives (over time)."
Angelakis said the decision to take part in the new system, which the state made voluntary for districts, was made in conjunction with the district school nursing staff.
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 contact tracing is a lot," Angelakis allowed. "It's taking them away from their expected typical duties as a nurse."
Angelakis said the tests will be available to students and staff on alternative weeks later in February with "test-and-stay" and contact tracing still in place until that time.
Swampscott is making the change at a time when Angelakis said "we are still having a tremendous amount of staff impacted and infected with the omicron virus."
She said the schools are in a "substitute crisis" despite raising rates and credited the school principals for making the arrangements to cover classes — especially in the latest surge.
"If anyone thinks this is an easier (school) year, it's not," she said. "This is almost worse now because we are in person. We are committed to being in person and we don't have the personnel resources that we typically have."
Angelakis said the high school is also working on some issues with the pool testing that have resulted in long lines and waits for students. She credited the student representatives to the School Committee for bringing those issues forward for needed correction.
(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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