An Update on the Safer Teachers, Safer Students Testing Program

August 8, 2020

To Our Wellesley Community,

With the recent announcement of an approved agreement for a return to in-person education on October 1st, we would like to provide an update on the status of the Safer Teachers, Safer Students Testing Program, and the fundraising campaign that WEF has launched in support of this ambitious initiative.

First, we would like to thank everyone who has conveyed their enthusiasm for this pilot program. In a survey that 500 families responded to during the month of August, over 92% of participants expressed interest in the program, and financial support for the program exceeded $750,000. This high degree of excitement from our community generated tremendous optimism in our ability to fully fund this program, and WEF quickly adapted to transform our usual back-to-school fundraising efforts into a much larger-scale pledging campaign, with a goal of assessing the community’s overall willingness to financially support this initiative.

WEF also made its own significant contribution to the program with a gift of $250,000.

Pilot Program Details
From the onset, the proposed pilot program included several components, the sum of which was estimated to require $1.5 million in funding. In addition to ensuring access to testing for symptomatic individuals (which is covered by insurance), components of the program include:

  • A one-time back-to-school test for all staff and students
  • Weekly surveillance testing for all staff
  • Weekly surveillance testing for some students

While we do not yet have $1.5 million in funds, members of the testing task force have continued to evaluate various paths for implementing the proposed pilot program, both with respect to the potential viability of lower-cost options, and with respect to which components of the program the Scientific Advisory Committee believes are most valuable and worthy of immediate implementation. To that end, we would like to identify the aspects of this program that are now immediate priorities for WPS. 

WPS Priorities
With the return to school, WPS has prioritized a one-time back-to-school test for all students and staff, along with weekly surveillance testing of staff. Given the current low rate of infection within our community, the testing task force’s Scientific Advisory Committee does not believe that broader surveillance of students is warranted until this rate reaches 3%. Thus, this component is not on WPS’s list of immediate priorities. However, it is important to note that with the implementation of the initial testing infrastructure, WPS will be well positioned to expand to broader surveillance of students once this becomes a necessity – likely at a much lower cost, as newer, cheaper testing options continue to emerge in the marketplace.

We are pleased to inform our community that WEF’s own donation of $250,000 will fully fund the one-time back-to-school test for all students and staff.
 
What is WEF’s Plan for Pledges?
Beginning this week, WEF is now accepting direct donations to our COVID-19 Innovation Fund for those who wish to contribute based on the current funding priorities for the testing program. Per guidance from WPS, donations will initially support surveillance testing for staff, and contributions thereafter will be in support of student surveillance. WPS expects to receive proposals from potential vendors this week, which will allow them to provide the community with more details regarding the estimated cost of this surveillance testing.

Donations to the WEF COVID-19 Innovation Fund should be viewed as an investment in safety that provides a community benefit to all. Such donations are fully tax-deductible.

Our Commitment to Transparency for Our Donors
We recognize that some of those who pledged in support of the testing program had done so under an assumption that all components of the program would be delivered. We want to assure our donors that while we hope you will share in our continued enthusiasm for the testing program, it is not WEF’s intention to ask or require anyone to convert a pledge to a donation if this pledge was made under a set of assumptions that have changed. As the priorities of the program continue to evolve, we wholly understand the need for donors to be informed of these changes, and to ensure that our donors are contributing with full and transparent information as to what their donation is supporting. To that end, it will be the donor’s choice to decide whether or not they wish to convert their pledge to a donation. Furthermore, in deciding to convert a pledge, it will be the donor’s option to convert all or a portion of their pledged amount. Those who made pledges should have already received a communication with additional information and instructions.

An Exciting Path Ahead
Looking ahead, we remain excited about the potential benefits that this testing program can bring to Wellesley, both with respect to offering reassurances in our school safety measures, and in providing data that could allow Wellesley to continue in-person learning for as long as possible. It is our honor to be a partner to WPS in this monumental endeavor.
 
Sincerely,
Liz Larsen and Jenn Fallon
Co-Presidents
Wellesley Education Foundation
Championing Innovation, Excellence & Inclusion in
Wellesley Public Schools
Wellesley Education Foundation | www.wellesleyeducationfoundation.org