(AP/WGGB/WSHM) -- State education officials are unveiling a new program that would let schools rapidly test students and teachers who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Under the program, which will begin rolling out in more than 130 school districts by early December, schools would be equipped with the rapid tests for free, state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said Wednesday.

If a student starts showing any symptoms of illness, they can be given the test, which produces a result in about 15 minutes.

If the test indicates the student has been exposed to the coronavirus, they can be sent home and advised to take a more exact test to confirm that they have COVID-19.

If the in-school test comes up negative, the student may be allowed to return to the classroom — or, if sick enough, may be sent home.

“By testing students and teachers and getting results within minutes, we will be able to identify infected individuals and their close contacts more quickly to help stop any spread,” Riley said.

Schools would need the consent of a parent before the test could be administered to a student.

Riley said the tests are another tool that the state can use to help ensure students can safely remain in the classroom.

The following are some of western Massachusetts districts that are part of Phase I of the program, according to a list from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • Amherst-Pelham
  • Berkshire Hills
  • Central Berkshire
  • Easthampton
  • Frontier Regional and Union #38
  • Gill-Montague
  • Greenfield
  • Holyoke
  • Mohawk-Trail
  • N.E.A.R.I. School
  • New Salem-Wendell
  • Palmer
  • Pathfinder Regional
  • Southern Berkshire
  • The May Center School, West Springfield

Holyoke Public Schools told Western Mass News that the safety of students and staff is a top priority for the district and Cynthia Carbone, director of health for Holyoke Public Schools, added in a statement:

"This week we received notice that we have been selected by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to offer the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test for COVID-19 in school health offices across the district. We are grateful to DESE for selecting Holyoke to participate in this opportunity. The Abbott BinaxNOW test is a highly accurate and minimally invasive anterior nasal swab test. The test must be administered by a trained health professional and results are available in just 15 minutes. The school nurses will be participating in training and will be administering the test at the point-of-care to individuals with COVID-like symptoms."

To view the full list, CLICK HERE.

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