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ConVal students will take rapid antigen tests under plan that starts Monday

  • An Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 self test sold at local pharmacies.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/1/2021 10:15:46 AM

ConVal is instituting a new testing protocol for COVID-19 starting on Monday, in the hopes of eliminating the requirement for some students and staff to quarantine needlessly.

“Our goal is to decrease the number of days that students and staff are out of school,” said Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders.

The protocol calls for rapid antigen testing, consisting of a lower nasal swab with results ready in 15 minutes. Provided parents give consent, students will be able to take the test if showing a new or unexplained symptom that could be attributable to COVID-19. The logistics of testing will depend on the age group, as high-schoolers will be able to self-swab with supervision, while elementary students will be swabbed by staff members. 

If the test comes back positive, students will need to be picked up by a parent and will be referred to a doctor for further guidance. If the result is negative, students will be able to adjust as necessary, and will be able to return to school once symptoms have improved. 

Current ConVal quarantine protocol calls for symptomatic people to isolate at home for 10 days, or until they receive a negative test result. This testing will hopefully cut out the middle man, according to Rizzo Saunders.

“This is really recognizing that we’re in the middle of cold and flu season, and students may or may not have symptoms consistent with COVID- 19, but not actually COVID-19,” Rizzo Saunders said. “We  want to make sure that if students are quarantining for an extended amount of time, they’re not doing it just because they’re symptomatic.”

Another motivation for the district, Rizzo Saunders said, is to help alleviate some of the pressure on parents and staff to locate tests outside of school, as it can sometimes be difficult to find a testing location and get a timely response – each day spent waiting is another day of missed school. If parents are keeping children at home due to symptoms, they will also be able to call and make an appointment to arrange testing through the school.

“We just wanted to make sure that people have options,” she said. 

The testing protocol has been in the works for about three weeks now, according to Rizzo Saunders. and will be rolled out Monday, Dec. 6. It is made possible through what Rizzo Saunders called an offshoot of the Safer At School Screening program, which the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has been working to make available to districts across the state since last spring. ConVal will partner with Ginkgo Bioworks to provide the testing supplies.

The protocol comes at no additional cost to the district, Rizzo Saunders said, with the exception of shuffling staffing around to make sure the district has enough personnel administering tests. 

Rizzo Saunders said that she hopes “a strong amount” of parents give permission for their students to be tested.

“I got a lot of very kind emails thanking us for doing this, and taking this next step in strategies for where we find ourselves these days," she said. 

Instructions for giving permission electronically have been sent to district parents and staff, and the district encourages everybody to fill it out before it becomes necessary.  


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