Pilot COVID-19 testing program rolls out in select R.I. schools

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WLNE) – The Department of Education and the Department of Health are rolling out a new pilot testing program for asymptomatic students and staff at three school districts.

The pilot was created to add an additional level of screening in schools especially in hard-hit areas. The hope is to pilot what it would look like to have on-site, ongoing testing.

That program kicked off Tuesday at Ella Risk Elementary, which is the first school to test out the program.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a single tear today,” Ella Risk Elementary Principal Buddy Comet said. “I want to tell the world how brave our kids are being as trailblazers in this process today.”

With parental permission, students will start their school day for the next two days with two COVID-19 tests. Staff have the option to get tested, too.

“We have a whole set up where students will receive their vials, their swabs that are packaged all securely,” Principal Comet said. “Then they just wait for one of the technicians to call them over and they stand bravely and have their noses swabbed a couple of times because we’re running two tests.

Those two tests include a BinaxNOW test, which gives results in 15 minutes and a PCR test, which will go to a lab.

“Part of the reason for doing both is to check on the reliability of the BinaxNOW tests to see if that will be a reliable source that you only follow up in some cases with a PCR,” Principal Comet said.

Principal Comet says the program is aimed at schools in cities with high positivity rates, which is why testing kicked off in Central Falls. It’ll move to Raices Dual Language Academy on Thursday.

After that, testing will move to three schools in Providence and one in Lincoln. Specific schools have not yet been identified.

Principal Comet says he’s happy his school was picked to test it out and hopes it will keep kids in the classroom as safely as possible.

“The more we can have our students in person, the more we can not only make sure they are educationally sound, but to make sure their health is good and they’re emotionally sound as well,” Principal Comet said.

According to RIDE, there are no plans to bring the program to any other districts yet, but once it is completed they will re-evaluate how it could expand in the future.

Categories: News, Our Schools, Providence, Rhode Island