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Covid Rates Spikes but no in Class Testing in Montclair Public School

Montclair Public Schools continue to have no in-school coronavirus testing, and a presentation from a possible new testing vendor expected at the Jan. 19 Montclair Board of Education meeting did not occur.  The district’s near-$300,000 contract with vendor Ginkgo Bioworks, first approved Oct. 6, expired in December, and students returned to school from winter break with no in-class testing taking place.

The  district was conducting voluntary, opt-in pooled testing of students and staff.  The district has been holding free, after-school COVID testing by Medi Mobile of Livingston throughout January and February. Testing is offered twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays at the Montclair High School’s George Inness Annex Atrium from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Ginkgo contract had been “unsustainable,” board president Latifah Jannah said at a Jan. 5 board meeting. That contract had the vendor scheduled for 11 weeks beginning Oct. 7. The contract also gave Ginkgo and the district an option to extend the testing program, which the district didn’t do in December.During the Jan. 6 school board meeting, a new testing contractor, Sunrise Group of Companies, informally shared details of a testing plan for the district. Under Sunrise’s testing protocols, students would be given nasal PCR tests, with swabbing administered by Sunrise staff, Anwer Qureishi, the company’s managing director and chief operating officer said.

The testing would also be individualized, a change from the pooled testing system used previously in the district (under the pooled testing system, if a positive result was found in a pool, students and staff from the pool would then get follow-up individual tests). Test results would come back within 24 to 72 hours, Qureishi said.In the two weeks leading up to winter break, the district’s tracking registered 142 new student cases and 43 new staff cases  out of 201 student cases and 60 staff cases total up to that point. The accounting at the time only included cases registered through the district’s own testing.

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