By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – The tents are up at Wellesley High School, which is the first site of an ambitious pilot program to get rapid testing into public schools for students as well.

“We’re not just reacting to cases after the fact. Doing everything we can beforehand gives us the greatest chance to keep the doors open,” said Dr. David Lussier, Wellesley school superintendent.

It would be the first of its kind for public schools in the state, partnering with labs to make it happen with 24-hour turnaround times. Not just Wellesley, but nearly a dozen communities including Watertown, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, and Revere are collaborating to generate data about possible cases to help local decision making.

“We’re this close,” said Dr. Dianne Kelly, Revere school superintendent.

Revere is a city in the red zone which can’t yet open its schools. But if rapid testing could begin in Revere, that could change.

“We can create a pool of data that might inform state or national practices on how we safely bring kids back to school,” said Dr. Kelly.

The goal is to get to weekly testing to make the program the most efficient. But it’s an expensive proposition, as these communities work together to try to raise and share the necessary funds.

“We believe if we show testing is feasible and returns useful information over the first few rounds of testing, that other sources of funds might mature once we show it’s possible,” said Jesse Boehm, a local scientist and Wellesley resident.

Wellesley high school teacher Meghan Dore says the testing also gives her a measure of confidence.

“I think it’s a great initiative. The more information we have, the more prepared we’ll be to start the year,” said Dore.

Hybrid learning is set to begin at Wellesley on October 1.

Confidence is another goal of the collaborative, especially if the testing can catch anyone who is asymptomatic.

“It’s going to give us radar on any potential transmission we may otherwise be unaware of,” said Dr. Lussier.

The program is meant to complement the social distancing, masks and hygiene.  But schools want to open the doors with data in hand.

Beth Germano

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