Thursday, April 18, 2024

Reminders about social distancing will remain even as school testing picks up, district officials say. (Photo: Cambridge Public Health Department via Instagram)

All public school staff working in-person will be provided with free Covid-19 testing twice a week, the Cambridge Public Schools and Cambridge Public Health Department said Friday.

A partnership with the the Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology allows the school district to be among just a few in Massachusetts and nationwide with a comprehensive Covid-19 testing strategy as school starts, according to an evening email.

All students begin school virtually Wednesday; students whose families choose in-person learning – primarily those with greater needs – will be on campuses four days a week beginning Oct. 13.

“This is one of many efforts that we are employing to make our classrooms and schools as safe as possible for our students and staff,” superintendent Kenneth Salim said. The plan was made in agreement with the Cambridge Education Association, which represents educators and many staff in the district.

In addition to surveillance testing of onsite staff, testing will be “easily” available in all buildings for staff and students who get Covid-like symptoms during the school day or are told while at school – as a result of contact tracing, for instance – that they should be tested, the district said. The city’s public health department will hire and manage additional health aides to give tests, under the supervision of a school-based registered nurse, to symptomatic students and staff. The city is paying for the district’s voluntary Covid-19 testing program.

“Surveillance testing among teachers is the best means to control or prevent Covid-19 outbreaks. This will also be the best measure to keep schools safe and can prevent the closure of entire school buildings,” said Claude A. Jacob, the city’s chief public health officer and director of its public health department. “Ultimately, we need these data to stay informed of the impact of Covid-19 within our schools and the Cambridge community.”

Other district safety and health precautions include metering to watch air ventilation quality, air scrubbers and box fans, additional custodial staff and increased cleaning and sanitation procedures, electrostatic disinfectant sprayers and the installation of 100 more sinks and hand sanitizer dispensers. There will also be “an abundance of personal protective equipment, and a number of procedures to ensure social distancing and mask wearing,” the district said in its press release.