APS Pooled Surveillance Testing FAQ

What is pooled testing?

Pooling samples involves mixing several samples together in a "batch" or pooled sample, then testing the pooled sample. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested while reducing resources required for testing. 

What is the purpose of pool testing?
Our participation in the Pooled Surveillance Testing pilot is an additional safety measure that allows for increased testing capacity at a lower cost with limited resources. It is an essential tool in our efforts to secure a full return to school, to identify asymptomatic students, and to control the spread of the virus in our community.  This approach provides us with insight into the effectiveness of mitigation efforts within our schools, and if other measures need to be taken. 

When will testing begin?
Testing will begin on January 25, 2021.

What grade levels are included in this testing program?
The testing will begin with students in grades two through twelve+. We will revisit testing for students in Kindergarten and Grade One in the future.

If I do not give consent for my child, do I have to fill anything out?
Yes, the consent form in ASPEN needs to be completed by all families of students who attend school in-person.

Who is managing the list of students who consented versus those that did not? Can teachers access this list?
The school will retain all of the consent forms for the students. At the beginning of each testing day, teachers will be given a roster of students whose legal guardians have given consent. Only students with completed consent forms will be able to contribute to the pooled test.

Does a second consent form need to be completed for the Rapid test?

Consent must be provided for both tests. The Aspen workflow will include consent for the Pooled Surveillance Testing and the Individual Diagnostic Rapid Testing. Families may be asked to complete the workflow again to complete the second consent. More information will be provided by your building administrator. 

Can I change my consent?
Yes. A guardian must login to ASPEN and change the consent.  This can be done at any time.

My child is a remote learner/enrolled in AVA, will they get tested?
No, pool testing will not be conducted on students currently enrolled in the AVA or students who are homeschooled.

Will staff be included in the testing?
Yes, teachers will voluntarily be tested in the same pool as their students. 

What if my child or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past? Will they still be tested?
Individuals who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 will not be included in pooled testing for at least 3 months post recovery, as they may still produce a positive test result.

What happens if my child’s pool test comes back negative?
We will be communicating the overall results of the pool testing with all families. Positive students and direct contacts will be directly contacted by the school nurse. Students in a positive pool who test negative will be contacted by the building administration.  

What happens if my child’s pool test comes back positive?
Positive test results will be communicated to you directly by your child’s school. Students and staff in the positive pool will then take individual diagnostic antigen tests. Those students and staff identified as positive or close contacts will then be contacted to follow current quarantine procedures. 

What if a student is absent?
If a student is absent on the day that the test is administered, they will not be included in that day’s pool test results. If the pool test result is positive, you will be given the option to take the individual a diagnostic antigen test.

If my student is absent or opts out of testing, will I still be notified if their class pool results are positive?
If a student is absent from school the day of testing, or did not consent to testing, they will receive an email that indicates an event has occurred in their class, as we would do for any positive case.

If I’ve opted out of testing, will my child still have to take the diagnostic antigen test if the class pool has a positive result?
No. If you have opted your child out of the pool testing, your child will not be asked to take an individual test if his/her class pool tests positive.

If I’ve opted out of both pool and individual testing, will my child have to quarantine if they are deemed a close contact of a positive classmate?
Yes. Current safety guidelines will continue to apply to all students and staff.

If my child is in a positive pool, but can produce a negative test result, can he/she return to participation in athletics?
Yes. If a student tests negative in a rapid test, they can return to athletics. 

If my child is in a positive pool, but can produce a negative test result, can he/she attend day programs (ABACUS, YMCA)?
The decision to allow students to attend day programs is to be decided by each individual organization. You are encouraged to contact them directly.

I have multiple students in different schools and classes. What happens when one of them tests positive?
If a pool tests positive, individuals within that pool are not considered positive until they have taken an individual test. Family members are not affected until a student tests positive on an individual test.

Is there a video that explains the process?
Yes, please CLICK HERE to see a video.

What does the process of sample collecting entail?
To learn more about what happens on test day and how samples are collected, please click the links below:
Nasal Swab Self-Collection Instructions
Sample Collection Overview
Sample Collection Inside the Classroom

What type of swab is used for this test?
This is a gentle, self-collected anterior nasal (AN) swab.
Who at APS sees the results of testing?
Test results are shared only with school administration. 

How will pools be created?
Groups will be clustered by grade, cohort and proximity. For example, two 3rd grade classes with adjoining classrooms may be pooled together.

What is the timeline of testing and results?
On Monday and Tuesday morning, students and staff will self-administer their own sample collection. Monday is generally reserved for students in Cohort A and Tuesday is generally reserved for students in Cohorts B, A/B, and C. Samples are sent via FedEx. 36-72 hours after receiving the priority package, results are delivered electronically through a confidential database to the building administration. At this time, we will review the results and contact appropriate families. This process will begin again the following week.

How often will testing occur?
Testing will take place once a week. Cohort A tests will be given each Monday, and Cohort B, A/B, and C tests on Tuesday. 

How quickly will results be returned?
Samples will be sent out the day that they are taken. Results will be released approximately 36-72 hours after the lab receives them. If a pool tests positive, families and staff within that pool will be notified.

Will contact tracing occur with this process?
Yes. Students in a positive pool will be given the rapid antigen test to determine the positive student. If your child was in close contact with the positive student, you will be notified and required to follow the quarantine guidance.

How reliable is the test?
We have validated our Concentric by Ginkgo next-generation sequencing (NGS) assay both for individual and pooled samples. When analyzing individual samples (which is not the planned use of the assay for pooled testing pilots), we found a 96% percent positive agreement and 100% percent negative agreement with both nasopharyngeal and anterior nasal swab clinical samples run with a high sensitivity RT-qPCR assay. When testing contrived 35-dry swab pooled samples at no virus (0 copies/mL), low viral concentrations (1500 copies/mL) and high viral concentrations (75,000 copies/mL), we found 100% concordance with the expected result.

Does a laboratory performing SARS-CoV-2 (nondiagnostic) surveillance testing on pooled specimens need to use a test that has received FDA EUA authorization?
No. In accordance with CMS guidance, a laboratory performing SARS-CoV-2 (nondiagnostic) surveillance testing on pooled specimens collected in Massachusetts will not be required to use an FDA EUA laboratory test. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommend that laboratories conducting surveillance testing with pooling should use an assay and test system that has received an EUA from FDA.

Can unlicensed staff collect specimens?
Yes. The Department of Public Health guidance requires all personnel performing specimen collection, including nasopharyngeal (NP) or anterior nares (AN) specimen collection, to be trained and demonstrate competency to be able to safely collect specimens. While specific licensure is not required, all unlicensed healthcare personnel should be appropriately supervised.

I have heard that the State of Massachusetts will be offering a similar program? Does APS have an interest in this program, as well? 
Yes, we have submitted our interest and are waiting on a response from the state.

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