Opinion: The 10-week WHS testing program will benefit Wayland


Credit: Creative Commons

WSPN’s Julia Raymond reflects on Wayland’s new ten-week testing program being set into place in December.

Massachusetts school officials plan to put into place a 10-week rapid COVID-19 testing program in early December. Abbott BinaxNow tests will be available to students and staff members at Wayland who are symptomatic. December’s launch is the first phase of the program. This new program could lower infection numbers, increase the number of students in a class and keep COVID-19 under control.

Students or faculty members who are symptomatic will be able to get tested with an Abbott BinaxNOW rapid test, which will get results in 15 minutes and will show the results on a mobile app. Students with positive tests are not definitely infected with COVID-19; they will need to get a PCR test, which will not be offered by the school.

So what makes a rapid test different from PCR test? The test identifies people who are at the peak of infection when virus levels in the body are likely to be high. The test usually starts with a healthcare worker swabbing your nose or the back of your throat and then they develop your saliva swab and test it. For more information, take a look at this rapid test infographic.

The Abbott BinaxNOW rapid tests are ultimately a cheaper option than PCR tests. Although PCR tests are proven more accurate than the rapid tests, it is still better than no testing. It functions in the same way and won’t take a big chunk out of the budget we have.

Faster results are where this test dominates over the PCR test. With faster results, contract tracing can be done faster, and ultimately, students can attend school sooner. The rapid tests allow the school to detect the virus in students or staff in just 15 minutes rather than two to three days. In October, we saw our school go remote for a few days due to contact tracing; there was not enough time to track down those students who had been exposed to the virus in time to prevent them from attending school.

If all goes well, this could drastically change our hybrid schedule. Both cohorts could be attending school in-person all five days if the rapid tests help create a clear change in the number of cases. If cases begin to lower at a steady pace, this would allow more students to be in a classroom and at school. By conducting testing at school, we can catch cases faster and prevent the spread. If there is a definite drop in cases once this testing program is set into place, I don’t see why we couldn’t try going back to in-person learning altogether. The sooner we get back to five days in school, the better; online school is starting to take a toll on students’ mental health.

As winter approaches, testing will be vital to staying in school. Everything is indoors, and cases around other towns will increase as well. Winter sports and other activities that could cause an increase in infections are now happening. Testing could catch cases quicker before one student spreads it to their whole class or team. Hopefully, Wayland will see the benefits of the program and continue to partake in it until the vaccine arrives.