Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) will soon be able to provide at-home COVID saliva testing for students and staff.
In what has been a long haul for school planners and health officials, the surveillance-pool testing plan from Mirimus Clinical Labs that was accepted by education officials in November has fully satisfied its funding requirements.
Through both public and private donations, the overall $462,150 price tag is significantly cheaper than the initial proposition to test all students and staff who enter school buildings.
Asymptomatic surveillance testing uses a pool-sampling method, which lowers the overall cost of procurement for the schools and makes it easier to implement and operate a testing program.
To fund the program, MVPS school committees agreed to allocate $150,000 from their budgets, the Martha’s Vineyard Bank Charitable Foundation contributed $100,000 and agreed to be the fiscal agent for the project, and MVYouth contributed $212,150 to fulfill the final portion.
The MVPS program will be among the first and most comprehensive primary school testing initiatives in Massachusetts, and will be complemented by a state-funded symptomatic testing program which will test students and staff who are feeling ill during the school day. This form of testing provides rapid results so those in schools can be evaluated and then isolated if need be, before they expose others to potential infection.
James Anthony, president and CEO of M.V. Bank, said he is happy to be partnering with the Island school systems that contributed their portion of the funding, along with MVYouth. “It was very much a team effort, and we are wildly excited about being able to contribute to all of us getting back to some semblance of normalcy,” Anthony said.
As a mutually owned organization for 111 years, Anthony said, the foundation views the opportunity to support a testing program that benefits the community so greatly as being “hand in glove” with its mission.
“We see our ability to give through the foundation as enabling our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders, which is the community — so it really brings everything full-circle for us,” he said.
In a press release from the bank, Superintendent Matt D’Andrea said the program’s main goal is to identify and respond to COVID in the Island school community, and get students back in school so they can receive quality, in-person learning.
“Our top priority is for students to safely attend school in person. Until we have a widely available vaccine or treatment, systematic testing is an important part of our ability to provide the best educational experience,“ D’Andrea said in the release.
School official Alex Salop said in the release that school testing will allow administrators to make more informed decisions about when to open and close schools. “It will also provide a measure of comfort to staff, parents, and students that we are closely monitoring the existence of COVID-19 in the schools,” he said.
According to the release, all positive results will be included in regular reporting of community testing data, as required by the commonwealth.
“While significant research demonstrates that positivity rates within schools are considerably lower than those of the surrounding community, having more data about COVID in the Martha’s Vineyard schools will be of tremendous assistance to health officials on the Island,” the release states.