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Massachusetts Starts Handing Out 227,000 Rapid COVID-19 Test Kits For School Teachers, Staff

FRANKLIN (CBS) – The state of Massachusetts started handing out 227,000 rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kits to every school district in the state Saturday.

The National Guard and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency distributed boxes of the kits to representatives from the districts at a facility in Franklin.

The state is hoping teachers and staff will be able to take one of the tests before returning to the classroom on Monday after the holiday break.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education bought the tests from an out-of-state vendor earlier this week because there's been a shortage of the kits nationwide. The packages were supposed to arrive Thursday, but when they didn't, the state had to scramble to find an alternative supply.

The delay prompted the state's largest teachers' union to demand schools stay closed Monday so teachers and staff could use the day for COVID-19 testing. The state said Friday that's not going to happen.

"We look forward to distributing our test kits tomorrow and Westboro will be open on Monday," Westboro schools superintendent Amber Bock told reporters as she picked up kits for her district Saturday.

Cathy Cummins, the executive director of the Assabet Valley Collaborative in Marlboro, said her staff has struggled to find rapid tests on their own.

"We're hopeful that more will be coming because they are so hard to find right now," she told reporters.

North Hampton Superintendent Andrew Linkenhoker said he hopes the tests can give the school community "peace of mind."

"I think it's wonderful what the state's doing for us. Obviously with the case numbers going up and with the holiday surge going on, it's great. I think just peace of mind at the minimum to get the students back and staff back, and hopefully finish the year on a high note," said Linkenhoker.

However, some communities like Lexington and Burlington, have canceled classes for Monday. Others, like Newburyport and Watertown, will have shorter days for testing.

"We must use Monday as a date for districts to test, be able to analyze the data, and then make plans that match the data," said Massachusetts Teachers Association representative Merry Najimy.

Cambridge decided to delay the return to school until Wednesday.

"My operations department, they are actually right now delivering those tests to each and every one of the schools in the district," said Victoria Green, Interim Superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools.

The Cambridge School District made the decision to delay the return of kids to school because of the increase in COVID cases.

"On Monday, we have four school testing sites that we are encouraging our students and their families to bring them out to get a PCR test," said Green.

Massachusetts is one of a few states that is supplying both masks and test kits before people return back to school.


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