DESE: school rapid test kits have arrived, distribution starts this weekend

MALDEN, Mass. — In the pandemic era, things change quickly. State education officials saw their latest plan evaporate in a little over a day.

On Wednesday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced the acquisition of 200,000 at-home rapid antigen test kits to be distributed before school reopens next week.

DESE confirms Friday evening that it will begin distributing more than 227,000 rapid antigen tests to school districts on Saturday and Sunday.

“School districts across the Commonwealth will reopen next week as scheduled, and more than 2,200 schools will continue to conduct regularly scheduled pooled testing, symptomatic, and Test and Stay programs,” said DESE spokesperson Colleen Quinn.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association released a statement Friday morning, calling for state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to close schools Monday to allow for staff members the ability to get tested for COVID-19.

“Using Monday as a day for testing and analyzing data will allow our school districts to make prudent decisions around staffing needs so they can continue in-person learning for students if it is safe or develop contingency plans if a district deems it to be necessary.

It will also make it more likely that school staff already preparing to return to work on Jan. 3 will be more readily available for testing, thereby overcoming the logistical hurdles posed by the Baker administration’s failure to make adequate plans for the process.”

—  Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy

PREVIOUS: DESE sending 200,000 COVID-19 rapid tests to schools

Late Friday morning, DESE told Boston 25 News schools will remain open on Monday despite the MTA calling for the closure of all schools across the state.

News of the delay of test kits comes just before school district staff had prepared to pick up their allotment of kits to be distributed to teachers and other school employees ahead of the return to school during the first week of January.

Earlier Friday, Governor Charlie Baker reiterated his stance on the possibility of a return to remote learning.

“Kids need to be in school,” Baker stated. “If we learned anything from this pandemic, it’s the damage that’s been done to kids should never be repeated, and we have the tools and capabilities to keep people safe.”

Before DESE’s late-night statement arrived, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which has more than 100,000 members criticized the state’s plan to distribute 200,000 test kits without input from educators.

“The last-minute scramble by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide 200,000 test kits to educators is anything but that, jeopardizing our attempts to maintain safe in-person learning as schools reopen after the holiday break,” said Merrie Najimy, MTA president.

During the most recent week of COVID reporting in Massachusetts schools, the week of December 16th – December 22nd, 8,576 students tested positive for COVID-19 to go along with 1,544 staff members.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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