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Dear Washington Market School Community,
To the whole WMS community—children, parents, teachers, staff and Board of Trustees, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Throughout this almost unbelievably trying period, you have all been gracious, patient, supportive, generous and brave. Our school is open and functioning well and without your solid backing we would not be in as strong a position as we are today.
Maintaining the health of our school community during the pandemic is obviously paramount. The strict health protocols we have introduced will be maintained for the foreseeable future and we plan to enhance our testing program to reduce, as much as we can, the possibility of Covid-19 reaching or spreading in our school. We have been testing approximately 15% of all children and staff every week, with a test administered by Dr. Tiffany Otto’s team at Washington Market Pediatrics. Ideally, we would like to be testing 100% of children and staff every week, but using our current test would cost us about $20,000/week, a clearly prohibitive cost. To that end, starting Monday, January 25th, we will be switching to pooled testing, which will allow 100% of children, teachers and staff to be tested each week. Dr Otto will continue to provide valuable support for our school.
Pool testing involves combining material from nasal probes for a group of individuals who have some close association (e.g., the teachers and children in a class), testing that “pooled” material and, only if the pool produces a positive result, would the test material for each member of the pool be retested to identify which individual or individuals accounted for the positive pool result. The pool testing itself is so efficient that what we are now spending to test 15% of the community will allow us to test 100% of the community. An important additional benefit is that the nasal swab can be done at home, with the swab sample brought to the school, so there is no need to set up and travel to individual appointments for testing.
You should have received a description of how this pooled testing will actually work plus links to the CDC’s pool testing information. In the meantime you might want to check out the website of our new testing partner, JCM Analytics to get a clearer idea of the pooling procedure: https://jcma-llc.com/Home/Services.
My cherished grandmother, Mary Dubofsky, who lived through the 1918 pandemic in a Lower East Side tenement, would tell me, “Ronele, if you have your health, you have everything”. WMS has the most extraordinary staff, the most uniquely stimulating curriculum, beautiful physical plants, and teachers who give their all each day to know and sustain their students. But we would have nothing without our vigilant protocols to keep our school safe and healthy.
Take good care and hold on,
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