Pooled testing to begin amid spike in COVID cases


Melissa Dai

Optional pooled COVID testing for students will begin on Oct. 1.

Ben Schanzer, News Editor

Every teacher gave their first-period students COVID-19 test kits today, Sept. 30.

Students are not required to participate in COVID-19 testing, though the district health staff strongly encourages them to. There has been a recent increase in positive cases. The district Coronavirus Dashboard reports ARHS had 22 positive cases and 110 in-school close contacts the week of Sept. 23 to Sept. 29.

“The benefit [of students participating in pooled testing] is that we can identify students who may be positive in our student population,” School Nurse Erica Almquist said. “We can isolate them and figure out if they have had any close contacts, who we can identify to decrease any chance of spreading COVID-19 within the student population.”

District Wellness Coordinator Mary Ellen Duggan agrees with Almquist.

“With the recent spike in cases at the high school, participating in the pooled screening is essential in helping us get ahead of this recent surge in cases,” Dugan said in an email interview. “In order to stop the spread, we need to identify the positive individuals. Pooled screening helps us to identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals.”

The company responsible for the testing, “Veritas,” takes five student tests and combines them into one pool. Pooled testing is more efficient and more cost-efficient than individual testing because 80% fewer tests have to be performed compared to individual testing.

“If the pool tests negative, then all five of those individuals are negative,” District Physician Safdar Medina said in an email interview. “If a pool is identified as positive, then each sample gets tested individually to determine who the positive individual in that pool is.”

The program is fully funded by the state, and students can opt in or out of the program at any point this school year.

According to an email sent to students by Principal Sean Bevan, test samples should be returned to the Gold, Maroon or Main Office on Friday, Oct. 1. In addition, before submitting the sample, students (or their parents for minors) must complete a consent form.

This story was updated on Oct. 1, 2021.