By Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) — Getting students and teachers back to school safely is a top priority right now, but it can feel like an overwhelming task. To help, the state is funding a pilot program in districts across Massachusetts to start pool testing.

“Schools are not in the business of doing coronavirus testing and so we have a team from our foundation that works with individual districts to implement testing in their schools,” said Ross Wilson, the executive director of the Shah Family Foundation in Boston.

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His current mission isn’t about math or English tests, it’s about COVID-19 pool testing to give, parents, students, and teachers peace of mind.

So how does it work?

“Pool testing is basically taking multiple samples from individuals and putting them together in one test and essentially running that test and if you have a positive in the test you go back and retest those individuals,” said Wilson.

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This is the most efficient, cost-effective way to test large numbers of people. It can help narrow down positive cases very quickly in schools.

“It gives real numbers to what’s going on with spread in school and enables schools to remain open once they reopen because you can always isolate the cases if there are positives.”

So far, 300,000 students are signed up, that’s one-third of all the districts in the state. The hope is that all districts will opt-in on a weekly basis.

“We know of no other state doing this at this scale other than Massachusetts at this time so it is terrific that our state is leading the effort to ensure that kids can return to in-person learning safely,” said Wilson.

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The Shah Family Foundation created a website for parents that has videos, resources, and information about community partners to learn how testing will operate in schools. Visit it here.

Paula Ebben