One of the big questions regarding an ambitious quick turnaround COVID-19 testing program for Wellesley Public Schools students and staff has been where the money would come from. The nonprofit Wellesley Education Foundation is looking to do its part by ramping up a fundraising campaign in which it seeks to raise between $1.5M and $3.5M for the Safer Teachers, Safer Students: Back to School Testing Program.
WEF is kicking things off by donating $250,000.
As discussion over the plan has taken place in recent weeks at public School Committee, Board of Selectmen and Board of Health meetings, as well as behind closed doors, word has been that members of the school community have voiced a willingness to help fund this effort (see also: Wellesley school and health departments becoming inseparable as reopening nears). A Wellesley Education Foundation survey of the public school community also found that of 5o0-plus respondents, more than 92% expressed a willingness to contribute what would be a total of more than $750,000.
Of course this will test the bank accounts of those who have already been asked to donate to so many other causes during the pandemic, including the town’s general COVID-19 Relief Fund.
The 3-month pilot, which would need to begin before school starts in mid-September, would involve testing both symptomatic (highest priority, to help exclude those who just have the sniffles and not COVID-19) and asymptomatic public school students, faculty and staff. Wellesley is coordinating with a handful of other communities on this, too, to take advantage of economies of scale and to learn from each other.
The testing pilot has been spearheaded by a group of medical and scientific professionals who live in Wellesley and have or have had kids in the public school system, and it is supported by Supt. David Lussier, among other town and school leaders. The Wellesley School Committee this past week approved allowing the School Department to issue a request for proposal for a partner to operate such a program.
A huge part of the program is getting testing results within 24 hours, something that could make a big difference between the schools being able to carry on or lock down if required to wait around for results.
What’s more, the program would support the notion of universal access to testing, regardless of financial means.
WEF states: “It is our belief that Wellesley bears a civic responsibility to lead the charge in raising the funds needed to pioneer such a program in our community, and to further advocate for funding to deliver equivalent programs in some of the hardest hit communities. Thus, in addition to WEF’s efforts to raise funds within Wellesley, members of the testing coalition are actively seeking private and public funds to ensure that Chelsea and Revere are provided the financial support needed to implement testing programs in their respective communities.”