COVID-19 Testing Program

HPS offers free COVID-19 testing for students and staff

HPS is now offering two ongoing COVID-19 testing programs for students and staff, including:

  • At-home rapid COVID-19 testing with kits provided bi-weekly so participants can take a rapid antigen test at home once a week. This is a new program offered at HPS beginning in February 2022. To enroll in the at-home rapid testing program, students and staff should complete this form.
  • In-school COVID-19 tests are administered on a designated day each week for participants who enroll in the weekly surveillance (“pool”) testing. To enroll in the in-school weekly surveillance program, students should complete this form, and staff should complete this form. The district also offers as-needed symptomatic rapid testing to students and staff enrolled in the in-school testing program who become symptomatic while at school. Participants with symptoms who wish to be tested by their school nurse will need to sign a consent form at that time.

Note: Participants can enroll in both the at-home and in-school testing programs, just one of the programs, or neither. Vaccinations are not required to participate.

These programs help the district identify individuals who have been infected with COVID-19, with or without symptoms, so that measures can be taken to prevent further spread and help keep our school community safe. HPS collaborates with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to offer this free testing program. 

At-home rapid testing

HPS is now offering a free, at-home antigen testing component to the district’s COVID-19 testing program under newly revised state guidance. HPS has discontinued its Test and Stay program, which reduces the need for school nurses to conduct contact tracing. It will also make it easy for participating students and staff to test once a week, every week from home. Everyone enrolled in the weekly COVID-19 surveillance “pool” testing will also test once a week at school.

Why this change:

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), and the Department of Public Health (DPH) are now allowing school districts that participate in symptomatic and/or pooled testing to discontinue contact tracing and Test and Stay. Districts and schools that do so will be provided rapid antigen at-home tests for all participating staff and students that can be used on a weekly basis. This change is based on statewide and national data that show transmission from close contacts is a rare occurrence in schools and therefore, extensive contact tracing and associated Test and Stay procedures are not adding significant value as a mitigation strategy despite the demand they place on the time of school health staff and other personnel. Instead, Massachusetts is recommending that school health personnel increase their focus on identifying symptomatic individuals, rather than monitoring in-school close contacts who are unlikely to contract or spread the virus. Other New England states, such as Connecticut and Vermont, also have transitioned from individualized contact tracing to the use of at-home tests and focusing school health efforts on symptomatic testing. 

How to sign up for the at-home testing program:

Students and staff who would like to sign up for the at-home testing program should fill out this form as soon as possible. Participants can expect to receive their first test kits within one to two weeks of enrolling, and then every two weeks thereafter. By opting in, participants agree to review the training materials provided for test administration and to take the tests each week according to HPS guidelines. 

Note: Weekly surveillance (pool) testing will continue at each school, following the same schedule already in place. This new at-home testing program is in addition to surveillance testing and does not replace it. Students and staff do NOT need to be enrolled in the weekly surveillance testing at school to participate in the at-home testing program. You can choose to participate in one or both testing programs—or neither—although we do strongly encourage participation in both. They are free, convenient, and make it easy to access regular COVID-19 testing from the convenience of school and home.

Here’s how the at-home testing program will work: 

Every two weeks, students and staff who opt into the at-home testing program will receive a kit that contains two FDA-approved, rapid antigen COVID-19 tests manufactured by iHealth—the same kits provided to all HPS students and staff before the December 2021 holiday break. Participants will test once a week at home, with new kits provided every two weeks. If you test negative, there is nothing further you need to do.

Reporting positive test results: 

If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be expected to report your positive result to your building’s assigned school nurse, who will keep your results confidential. Anyone who tests positive will be expected to isolate at home for five to 10 days, or possibly longer, depending on their individual circumstances. We also recommend that anyone who tests positive should contact their healthcare provider to discuss any medical treatments or other support that may be needed. 

In-school weekly COVID-19 testing

Students and staff also have the option to participate in weekly COVID-19 surveillance “pool” testing. Under this program, participants report once a week at a specified time and location to be tested. Two samples will be collected from each participant. One sample will be inserted into the “pooled” vial, while the second sample will be inserted into an “individual” vial. The samples will be sent to the laboratory for testing. If the pool vial tests positive, the laboratory will test the individual samples to isolate the positive individual. This streamlined process allows a more rapid response time to ensure that the positive individual is notified. If the pooled vial is negative the individual test will NOT be tested by the lab. In certain situations, reflex testing may be necessary.

Note: Students who are in prekindergarten grade 1 will be tested by a trained test administrator. Adults and students in grades 2 and above will self swab, with support provided to those who require it.

The district also offers as-needed symptomatic rapid testing to students and staff enrolled in the in-school testing program who become symptomatic while at school. Participants with symptoms who wish to be tested by their school nurse will need to sign a consent form at that time.

Working Together to Contain the Spread

We are grateful to our families and staff who continue to show resilience and flexibility as we navigate through this pandemic together. As a team, we are working together to keep our schools open and safer. Participating in these free testing programs is an important part of that team work.

Questions? 

For more information,  visit the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) information and resources related to the COVID-19 testing.

Additional Questions?

Contact Toni Ann Ford, Program Coordinator, at Toniannford20@gmail.com or Covidtesting@hps.holyoke.ma.us

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