A program that grants Sandwich school nurses the ability to test students for COVID-19 in specific situations will ensure that students who do not have the virus will be able to stay in school.

The program is offered through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the two testing options that the district has opted into will test students and staff who become symptomatic during the school day and another that will test students who have been identified as a close contact within the school building.

Nursing department head Nicola Bordelon said that the district’s ability to participate in the program is contingent upon other protocols being in place, such as masking of staff and students as well as maintaining a distance of at least three feet.

For both types of tests, parents must sign a parental consent form, which was emailed to caregivers last week. Consent cannot be granted same-day because the forms are processed through the state and it takes time to process them.

Students who are symptomatic before the school day starts should still stay home, but a rapid test can be provided to students if they become ill during the day. Additionally, the “Test and Stay” option allows students who may have come into close contact with a classmate who has tested positive for the virus to avoid quarantining by undergoing testing every morning.

Students who are using the test and stay program will have to wear masks outside and be spaced six feet apart at lunch instead of three. Mask breaks will still be provided to these students.

The program started on Monday, September 20 and has already been used on six students, who are all at the elementary school level, Ms. Bordelon said. None of the tests returned positive results, meaning that all of the students tested were able to return to their classrooms.

The test used is the BinaxNow rapid antigen test, which gives results in 15 minutes. It uses an ante-nasal swab, which means it does not go as far into the nasal cavity as other types of COVID-19 tests have notoriously gone.

As of Wednesday, September 22, consent had been given by parents for 29 percent of Forestdale students, 35 percent of Oak Ridge students, 22 percent of STEM Academy students, and 17 percent of Sandwich High School students.

Ms. Bordelon said that no student, especially at the elementary schools, will be tested without an additional call to their guardians, regardless of whether the consents form was filled out.

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