Beginning January 7, Shore Country Day School requires surveillance screening of all students and employees for COVID-19. The new testing policy comes after a full fall semester of in-person learning, during which no in-school transmission came to light at Shore. As the number of coronavirus cases spikes in Massachusetts and neighboring states, however, the testing is aimed at ensuring that students and employees are able to remain in school safely despite the higher rates of infection.
Shore has contracted with New York-based Mirimus Clinical Labs in order to conduct weekly testing via saliva sample. The company’s high-quality SalivaClear
COVID-19 PCR surveillance testing approach is designed to monitor and detect infection in groups of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Employees and students, even the very youngest, can collect their own saliva samples using a noninvasive tube method that requires no doctor or nurse to be present. Samples are gathered and shipped to Mirimus Clinical Labs each Thursday, with results available in 48 hours. Positive individuals are then notified through a secure, HIPAA-compliant reporting platform.
Shore began rolling out COVID-19 testing with drive-up sample collection on January 7, during a week of remote learning following the school’s winter break. The school implemented the week of remote learning in order the mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission due to holiday travel and large family gatherings, and to allow time for the entire school community to be tested before returning to campus. According to Head of School Clair Ward, “We were thrilled that all of our January 7 samples tested negative. This is a testament to our families’ willingness to partner with the school to make in-person learning safe for all.” With the success of this first round of surveillance testing, students and employees were able to return to in-person learning on January 11. Shore will continue with in-school testing every Thursday throughout the winter and spring.
Ward explains that the new testing regimen merely adds a layer to the extensive COVID-19-prevention protocols already in place at the school, which were devised by Shore’s COVID-19 Task Force and based on guidance from the CDC, the state of Massachusetts, and other authorities. Families must complete a comprehensive health self-screening for their child through a mobile app called MyMedBot each day before coming to Shore. Once at school, children wear masks the majority of the time, whether in the classroom or outside, and seating arrangements are carefully mapped to maintain social distancing. Throughout their school day, children remain with a single homeroom or “cohort,” a group of 10-16 students with dedicated indoor and outdoor spaces and little contact with other groups of students. Cohorts minimize the chances of a COVID-19 outbreak at school and facilitate quarantining and contact-tracing should a member of the cohort contract the virus. Signage and floor markings enable safer, one-way traffic flow in the school’s hallways, and extensive new cleaning protocols and windows and doors propped open to allow fresh air flow follow CDC and Massachusetts state guidelines for combating the spread of the virus.
“I couldn't be more proud of the way the entire Shore community—students, employees, and our families—has come together this fall and winter to make in-person learning possible. While it is always true of Shore, my appreciation for the strength of our village has reached new heights,” says Ward.
Still, despite the new testing program and all the other safety measures in place, Shore’s COVID-19 Task Force urges caution: “We ask for your continued vigilance. A test is just a moment in time, and we want to do everything possible to maintain our in-person learning.”