COVID-19 Testing Information

MFS is partnering with Mirimus Labs, based in Brooklyn, NY, to conduct non-invasive, saliva-based, pooled COVID-19 testing for students in Preschool – Grade 6 only. This testing is intended to complement – and not replace – the behavioral norms (daily completion of the daily health screening, wearing masks, physical distance), infrastructure changes, and other adjustments we have made to keep our community safe. Specific questions regarding testing should be sent to nurse@mfriends.org or covidtesting@mfriends.org.

COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Consent Form (one per participating student)

Testing Schedule (Distribution and Collection Dates)

Test Kit Distribution for students in Preschool – Grade 6 takes place on Tuesdays and Test Kit Collection takes place upon entrance to school on Wednesdays. The first Test Kit Distribution Day of the school year is Tuesday, September 14 with Test Kit Collection on Wednesday, September 15. No test kits will be accepted after 8:30 a.m. on Collection Day.

Note: If campus is closed on a scheduled Distribution Day or Collection Day due to inclement weather, the Distribution Day and/or Collection Day will move to a future date. Samples will remain viable.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who will be tested?*
All students in Preschool – Grade 6 are required to participate in weekly testing as they are largely ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Should a student become vaccinated once they turn 12 years old, they will be removed from the weekly COVID testing program two full weeks after their second vaccine dose.

*If your student has tested positive for COVID-19 in the 90 days prior to a test date, they should not submit a sample. This option requires written documentation of the COVID case to be sent to our nurse’s office in order to be exempt from testing. Your student will join weekly testing once the 90 days have passed.

What is pooled testing?
Rather than test each individual student separately, which is a time and resource intensive process, samples will be combined – or pooled – to cut down on the number of tests. Different types of samples could theoretically be pooled. In this case, we will be using saliva. If one person within a pool of 24 saliva samples tests positive, the entire pool is flagged as positive and subsequent testing is enacted to discern which individual(s) within the pool was the positive case. You can read more about the CDC’s interim guidance on pooled testing here and more about how Mirimus Labs conducts pooled testing here

How will the pooled test be administered?
MFS will be sending test kits home for each student. These kits (a zip-top plastic bag with vial, straw, and wipe) will be sent home in backpacks on a designated day each week (Distribution Day). The next morning, each student will drop off their completed saliva specimen during morning drop-off (Collection Day). There will be designated staff on the carline with a bucket to collect the zip-top bag with the vial inside. Students should drop their bag in the bucket before proceeding inside the buildings. No specimen bags will be accepted after 8:30 a.m. at the conclusion of morning drop-off, in order for us to get the samples to Mirimus Labs on time.

What if someone else is dropping off my child at school? Can I send the completed sample with them?
If your child is being dropped off by someone other than you, you are welcome to send the completed sample with them. Be sure the vial is enclosed in the zip-top plastic bag that has your child’s name on it before sending it into school. 

What if I miss the drop off window for my child’s completed saliva sample?
We have a firm deadline of 8:30 a.m. on Collection Day to receive samples, as we need to sort and immediately ship the samples to Mirimus Labs for analysis. There will be no exceptions made this year. All saliva samples must be delivered together in order to receive a timely result. If you miss the drop off window, you will need to have your child tested using an independent PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID test. A copy of a negative result must be provided to the school nurse on a weekly basis in order to attend school, and the child’s specimen should be collected in the same week as the weekly testing done through MFS. Information on testing sites can be found on the NJ COVID-19 Information Hub. Any testing done outside of MFS will be at the family’s expense. 

What happens if campus is closed due to inclement weather?
If campus is closed on a scheduled Distribution Day or Collection Day due to inclement weather, the Distribution Day and/or Collection Day will move to a future date. Samples will remain viable.

What happens if I don’t want my child to be tested?
We respect your right to not have your child tested by MFS. However, in order for a student to participate in our program, we require a negative COVID-19 test result on a weekly basis. Anyone who does not participate in the testing process or provide their own negative PCR test will not be able to enter school buildings. If you choose to opt-out of the MFS testing program and test on your own, please notify the school nurse and the relevant division director, so we know your plans.

May I provide test results from an independent PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 test instead of taking the MFS COVID-19 test?
Yes, if for some reason you are unable to pick up or return your child(ren)’s test(s) during a particular testing week, you may provide documentation of a PCR test to the school nurse by emailing the results to nurse@mfriends.org. If you take advantage of this option, the test result must be submitted to the nurse at weekly intervals, and the child’s specimen should be collected in the same week as the COVID testing provided by MFS. Any testing done outside of MFS will be at the family’s expense. 

What if my child has already tested positive for COVID-19 in recent months? Do they still need to test?
Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the 90 days prior to testing week will be exempt from the testing process. For persons previously diagnosed with symptomatic COVID-19 who remain asymptomatic after recovery, retesting is not recommended within three months after the date of symptom onset for the initial COVID-19 infection. If re-testing is performed within three months, re-isolation would not be indicated, and quarantine would not be recommended in the event of close contact with an infected person.

Therefore, if your child tested positive for COVID in the 90 days prior to a testing week, please submit proof of their test result to the school nurse prior to returning to campus. If you have already worked with the nurse and provided your result in writing, no further action is needed. Your child should NOT submit a saliva sample as part of the MFS pooled testing program, as it could potentially contaminate the rest of the pool. For those families whose child has tested positive in the past, the school nurse will be in touch in the week prior to testing to inform you when your child is qualified to re-enter the weekly COVID testing process.

When and how will we hear about the results?
Results typically take 24–48 hours, but we have found that the turn-around time varies depending on the volume of tests being processed at the lab and could take longer. A summary email will be sent to the community when results are available after each testing cycle. Current case counts can also be viewed on the MFS COVID-19 Dashboard

What if my child is in a positive pool?
If a pool is positive, Mirimus Labs will test pairs of specimens within the pool. If your child’s pair tests positive you will first be contacted by our school nurse and your child will be asked to stay home (or asked to be picked up, if they are at school that day). You will then be provided additional information on having an individual PCR COVID test done for your child. In the majority of cases, Mirimus Labs labs can run an individual diagnostic PCR test on the sample that was already provided and will provide results within 2-6 hours. You will need to provide consent for this test and register for an account on Mirimus’s third-party reporting platform to access the results. During those few hours while you await test results, your child will be asked to isolate in case the result is positive. Completing the test through Mirimus will be covered by the school and will ensure a fast result. If you choose to get an individual PCR test done elsewhere, it will be at the family’s expense and may take up to several days to receive a result.

What if you find out about a positive pair while school is in session?
There is a chance we may find out about a positive pair while students are on campus. In this case, a Division Director will discreetly remove the child from the classroom and bring them to our isolation space on campus. The parent/guardian will be called by our school nurse and the child must immediately be picked up from campus. We will ask both individuals to quarantine until individual PCR tests have been completed on each sample in the pair, and results are received (this usually only takes 2-6 hours once required paperwork has been completed through Mirimus). If a child tests negative for COVID-19, they will be invited to return to school the next school day. If a child tests positive, our nurse will be in touch with details on the required isolation period and next steps. 

Are these tests reliable? Could there be false positives?
False positives are possible but very rare. The PCR test utilized by Mirimus detects three different unique viral RNA templates. For a positive result, at least two RNA templates must be detected. The protocols used substantially decrease false positives created by detecting dead viral particles.

What are the costs associated with testing?
There is no additional cost to families to participate in testing. However, you are responsible for any costs that may be associated with getting a COVID-19 test on your own. 

Will my child’s privacy be protected?
The barcode corresponding to the sample will be connected with an individual’s name via an internal system at MFS. This information is not transferred to Mirimus and is only viewed by select MFS staff overseeing the testing process. The data portal that will be used by Mirimus meets and exceeds all HIPAA privacy protections afforded to every individual since no Protected Health Information (PHI) will be shared. Your student’s saliva samples will be used for COVID-19 testing only, and for Mirimus to make improvements to their diagnostic products. Only approved MFS administrators will be able to view all pool results.

What other schools have worked with Mirimus Labs?
There are a number of public and private schools who have partnered with Mirimus Labs to offer pooled saliva testing, and MFS worked with Mirimus Labs during the latter half of the 2020-21 school year. Additional testing clients include: Pingry, Kent Place School, Chatham Day School, Calhoun School (NY), St. Paul’s School (NH), Greenwich Academy (CT), and Wellesley Public Schools (MA), among others. In many cases, these schools are successfully testing individuals from ages 3 – 75.

For how long will you be doing surveillance testing for COVID-19?
It’s important to note that a COVID test is only as good as the day the specimen is collected. The incubation period for COVID-19 is anywhere from 2-14 days, and an individual may show a negative test result one day only to test positive several days later. For this reason, we know that testing can sometimes be misleading. This is why the layers of mitigation strategies we have in place are so critical. 

To start the year, MFS is testing students in Preschool – Grade 6 on a weekly basis as part of COVID surveillance testing. Given that these grades are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine and case rates are currently on the rise in our region, MFS is partnering with Mirimus Labs to start the school year. As the COVID context improves, we may modify or discontinue our weekly surveillance testing. Vaccination rates of over 80% in Grades 7-12 represent a significant additional layer of effective mitigation; therefore, we will not be testing students in these grades.

Tips and Tricks to Help with the Saliva Sample Collection Process
  • Plan for at least 15 – 20 minutes for the collection process.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum 30 minutes prior to providing the saliva sample. Do not use mouthwash for at least 2 hours prior to giving the sample. Doing any of these things may lead to an inconclusive or inaccurate test result.
  • Ask your child to ‘pool’ saliva in their mouth to help avoid “bubbly saliva” and help capture more of their saliva in the sample tube.
  • A small tap on the tube will decrease the “bubbles” from the saliva, giving you a more accurate volume reading.
  • If your child is having difficulty generating saliva, try rubbing the outside of their cheeks, making chewing motions, imagining or smelling sour foods (e.g., lemons) or their favorite food.
  • The straw should be used to help guide saliva into the sample tube for collection. The child should not blow into the tube.
  • Be sure that the cap of the vial (not the straw) is securely tightened after collection.
  • Wipe down the vial with the enclosed wet wipe before placing the sealed vial back in the provided and labeled zip-top bag.

Watch this previously recorded video of Head of School Julia de la Torre demonstrating the saliva sample collection process.