TBS Covid Testing FAQs
Why is TBS testing for COVID?
Protocols such as face coverings, hand washing, and HVAC upgrades are in place to minimize risk of COVID-19 transmission at TBS. While these measures are essential to providing a safe environment, a surveillance testing provides greater assurance for a safe school environment.
Testing quickly detects infection, allowing for prompt tracing and isolating of COVID-19-positive individuals—whether or not they become symptomatic, significantly lowering the risk of transmission.
What is surveillance testing?
Surveillance testing looks for the presence of infection in people without any symptoms. Ongoing surveillance is especially effective with groups in repeated contact, such as work teams or classes of children.
What is the COVID-19 testing program?
The weekly test is quick, easy and it does not hurt. We will be utilizing two testing methods: PCR tests and antigen tests. For both types of tests, samples will be collected through a lower nasal swab. Learn how to do a nasal swab, from a 2nd grader.
PCR testing through a local testing lab will be our primary means of routine surveillance testing. Swabbing will generally take place on Wednesday mornings and sent to the lab on Wednesday afternoons.
In addition to the PCR test, we will also continue to use Abbott’s BinaxNow antigen test, which produces results in about 15 minutes. This test will be used primarily in response to symptoms, exposure to a positive contact, and children not at TBS on Wednesdays. It may also be used for routine surveillance.
Recent studies demonstrate that these tests have excellent sensitivity in detecting high viral load in both adults and children. The swift turnaround time for results and the reliability of the tests make them valuable tools to reduce risk of viral transmission in our community.
TBS covers the full cost for all enrolled children and faculty, which is about $15 per test. We are grateful to the Department of Early Education for funding lab fees for the PCR tests.
Virus rates are low in our area, why is testing needed?
While virus rates among vaccinated individuals have plummeted since the spring, rates among those who are unvaccinated remain higher. Vaccinations for young children are likely 5-6 months off and this dual testing solution can be continued as needed through that period. Participating in the community wide PCR program also allows us to join local efforts in making the state as a whole a safer place for all children, teachers, and families.
Why are we using two different tests?
Flexibility! The PCR test gives us the gold standard in virus detection, detecting viral load about a day before the antigen test. Our agreement with the lab only allows us to run the PCR test once per week and sometimes an exposure or symptom pops up on a different day, or a child is absent on PCR testing day. This is where the antigen test comes in. It is kept onsite at TBS and can be used anytime. We value the instant results and the antigen test, and we know that removing a positive individual from the classroom environment better protects others, making the antigen test useful when symptoms develop.
How can my child participate in the program?
Enroll your child in the two programs:
PCR Testing: ****Please enroll your child now.****
Antigen Testing: If your child is new to TBS, check your email for a message entitled “NAVICA Invitation from Children's Center”, which was sent to the adult listed first in your household account. ****Please complete the steps listed in the email AND send your child’s NAVICA QR code screenshot to us at firstname.lastname@example.org (From the app, click I am at a Test Site> Display NAVICA ID. Swipe until you see your child's QR code. Take a screenshot of your child’s QR code)
What kind of test is it? How does it work?
PCR Test: The type of testing we are using is called pooled testing. Pooled testing makes it easier and faster to find individuals who might have COVID-19. Individual samples will be delivered to the testing lab in Framingham. 10-24 samples are combined, creating a group called a pool. This whole pool is tested at one time. If the pool is negative, all individual are negative and you will not hear from us. If the pool is positive, inconclusive or invalid, an individual diagnostic test will be automatically completed for those individuals. In this instance, you will be contacted directly by the lab if your child is part of a positive pool and an individual diagnostic test is conducted.
Antigen Test: We use a rapid antigen test strip from Abbott, which gives results directly on the strip, much like a home pregnancy test. The test is run onsite at TBS. If you are curious about the test and the reliability of antigen testing, read this fact-packed overview by Brown University economics professor Emily Oster.
Does my child need to get tested outside of TBS?
Yes, if your child is sick, please consult your pediatrician. While we can test them at TBS, sometimes your physician will also want you to bring your child to their office for an exam. In that case, it is simpler to have your child tested during the visit.
Can a parent/babysitter/nanny/housekeeper get tested at TBS?
Yes. Appointments for antigen tests continue to be available for family and friends of TBS at $10 each. Results are delivered within 15 minutes. If you have unvaccinated indoor visitors or household employees we ask that you either require them and everyone else in the house to mask and/or that you test them weekly. More details are here.
We know there is interest in PCR testing as well and we are working to set that up.
Is this mandatory?
No, it is not mandatory. However, we strongly encourage all families to participate in this critical community mitigation strategy. Similarly to wearing a mask or washing hands, this strategy protects others in our school community and beyond. Although virus rates in adults have dropped dramatically due to vaccinations, children are unvaccinated. Every child who participates adds another layer of assurance that school can remain safely open. If you have questions or concerns about participating, we ask that you let us know so we can address those questions or concerns. We want to make the program work for all families.
What is the cost?
TBS covers the cost for all enrolled children and faculty, which is about $15 per test. We are grateful to the Department of Early Education for funding lab fees for the PCR tests.
How will I find out my child's results?
PCR Tests: Tests will be run at our partner lab, Eurofin, within 24 hours. You will generally not receive individual results for the PCR test. If the pool test comes back negative, all participants in the pool are COVID-negative. In this case, you will not hear directly from the lab, but TBS will report a summary of results as part of the weekly Friday email. In the rare instance that the pool test comes back positive, it means that at least one person in the pool is COVID-positive. In this case, all participants in that pool will automatically get individually retested using the original sample at the lab. These participants will be contacted directly by the lab.
Antigen Tests: Results will be delivered to you individually via Abbott’s NAVICA app. TBS will report a summary of results as part of the weekly Friday email.
What can I expect if my child tests positive for COVID via a test at school?
We will call you to ask you to pick your child up and contact your pediatrician for instructions.
How is the test administered?
The process is quick and easy. The tip of a swab is inserted into the base of the child’s nostril and gently swirled, similar to cleaning the exterior part of the ear with a Q-tip. We call it a "tickle test." Many children self swab with guidance. Several of our educators are trained to administer the tests, ensuring the process is guided by someone who understands child development and is sensitive to their needs.
What if my child resists the sample collection?
We want TBS to continue to be a place children love! Swabbing will be done with child development at the forefront. If a child strongly resists, we pause and try again at another time. No child is forced into swabbing if they feel uncomfortable.