NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Governor Charlie Baker has announced he is activating the Mass. National Guard to help with COVID-19 testing in schools across the Commonwealth. Western Mass News is getting answers on what this could mean for schools in our part of the state.
Up to 200 guard members are expected to start administering COVID-19 tests in select schools starting on Monday.
“I am responding affirmatively to DESE, saying that we’d like the help,” said Northampton Public School Supt. John Provost.
Provost signaled to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioner he would like the national guard to help with COVID-19 testing because testing in Northampton schools has not gone smoothly.
“So we’ve been doing pool testing for two weeks in Northampton. We’ve had some difficulties with staffing provided by our vendor. It’s resulted in one day of testing having to be canceled,” Provost explained.
Baker's answer to this issue is to bring in up to 200 Massachusetts National Guard members to help school districts across the Bay State. Massachusetts already has a COVID-19 testing program for students kindergarten through 12th grade so kids can remain in school safely.
More than 2,200 schools have signed up to participate in one of three types of testing: test and stay, symptomatic testing, and pool testing. Now, the state is sending in reinforcements to help administer the tests.
Westfield Public Schools is seeing similar issues as Northampton.
“So I’m actually pretty glad to hear that because we had signed up in August to be able to do this testing…We were supposed to be assigned a liaison that didn’t happen ‘til the middle of September,” said Westfield Public Schools Supt. Stefan Czaporowski
Czaporowski told Western Mass News that the main reason they weren’t able to start an in-school testing program is because the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's contractor for the testing is dealing with staffing shortages.
“We understand that. I know there are staffing shortages really everywhere it seems, but we’re a bit frustrated we haven’t been able to start our testing program,” Czaporowski explained.
State Representative from Amherst Mindy Domb told Western Mass News what she’s heard from school districts she represents.
“What I heard specifically from school districts I represent is that they went through several different contractors with no results and they’ve been waiting for like six weeks to get this program going,” Domb explained.
Superintendents have a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon with DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley regarding getting help from the national guard as early as Monday.