ROCKPORT — Children attending Rockport public schools will receive free weekly COVID-19 tests for six weeks courtesy of the state Department of Education.

Tests will be given to elementary and middle school pupils and staff starting Tuesday and Wednesday, by their hybrid learning cohorts. High schoolers will begin receiving their tests Monday, Feb. 22, after February break. Mondays are a district-wide remote learning day, so high school students will only need to make a quick stop at the school building to get their tests.

The school district will require all staff to take these weekly tests. Parents of schoolchildren will need to sign a permission slip if they want their child to participate.

Superintendent Rob Liebow said enough students are currently enrolled to ensure accurate results from the tests they receive. 

"We want to thank the parents for trusting the process," Liebow continued.

Swabs will be grouped by cohort and tested at CIC Health in Cambridge. If the cohort reads positive, the testing group will be given an additional swab to narrow down who tested positive. 

CIC Health was assigned to test Rockport schools by state health officials. The COVID-19 testing startup has already organized programs in 120 school systems across the state and recently held a major COVID-19 testing site at Glillete Stadium. Liebow describes CIC Health's COVID-19 testing as the "gold standard" in Massachusetts.

"If we get the tests in early in the morning, CIC said they could get us the results that day," Liebow explained.

Tests will be administrated by the district's nurse staff —general district nurse Gayle Johnson, Elementary School nurse Ruth Wagner, Middle School nurse Jennifer Johnson and High School nurse Jeanne Pratt. 

The Massachusetts Department of Education first opened applications for school districts to be part of its Authorized Pooled Testing program on Jan. 22.

"(Liebow) was on (the grant program) from the minute it opened," said Johnson. "He was one of the first ones to apply."

If the school districts wants to continue giving tests through the rest of the school year after the six-week period is up, Liebow said it would cost around $50,000 to $60,000 of the district's CARES Act stimulus money. 

As of Thursday morning, 30 trial tests were given to members of staff and a select few of their children enrolled in Rockport schools. Liebow was the last test of the day.

"It's not a problem at all," said Liewbow of the tests. "It's just a quick swab of the front of your nose. It takes all of 30 seconds to complete."

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

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