Grant Supports Innovative Medford Public School COVID Testing Program

Funds from Cummings Foundation bolster testing model that has contributed to safe in-person learning for Medford PK-12 schools
A hand puts a container with testing swabs into a box containing other swabs
Credit: Alonso Nichols, Tufts University

Tufts University and Medford Public Schools are the joint recipients of a Cummings Foundation $100,000 grant supporting a pooled COVID-19 testing program for the Medford Public Schools.

The testing program, based on a model developed by Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco, Vice Provost for Research Caroline Genco and Chief Information Officer Chris Sedore, contributed to the school system’s ability to return students, teachers, and staff to in-person classes safely.

The pooled testing model is quick and accurate and operates at a much lower cost than individual testing. Teachers and staff are tested twice weekly, and students are tested once weekly.

The collaboration between Tufts and Medford to provide testing in local schools is believed to be the only one of its kind between a university and public school system in Massachusetts.

The pooled testing program is one of many ways that Tufts supports its host communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the university has sought ways to help its hometowns, including housing patients, public safety personnel and hospital employees on our campuses at the height of the 2020 summer surge. The university also:

  • Allowed food security groups to use the university’s refrigeration facilities so they could meet increased demand from struggling families;
  • Created a free testing program for our nearby abutters;
  • Provided individual testing for local public school teachers and student-facing personnel before the pooled testing program was introduced;
  • Made emergency grants available to local non-profits;
  • And more.

“Tufts University is incredibly grateful for these funds from the Cummings Foundation,” said Rocco DiRico, director of Government and Community Relations at Tufts University. “The money from this grant allowed us to share our knowledge, expertise and skills with Medford Public Schools to create an affordable, reliable and efficient COVID-19 pooled testing program. Thanks in part to the collaboration with Medford, our pooled testing program became a model for public schools throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

“By partnering with Tufts University, we were able to get our students and teachers back into the classroom safely, and do it sooner than most districts in the state,” said Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn. “This was thanks to the pooled testing program we implemented with the grant funding provided by the Cummings Foundation. We look forward to continuing to work with the university, Medford School District officials, and the community to ensure a happy, healthy and productive school year in person this fall.”

The technology support for the testing program is provided by the university in collaboration with The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. The City of Medford is responsible for test administration, contact tracing, and communicating with school personnel, students and parents.

This year’s Cummings Foundation grant recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including social justice, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention and food insecurity. The nonprofits are spread across 43 different cities and towns.

“We aim to help meet the needs of people in all segments of our local community,” said Cummings Foundation Executive Director Joel Swets. “It is the incredible organizations we fund, however, that do the actual daily work to empower our neighbors, educate our children, fight for equity, and so much more.”

The complete list of 140 grant winners, plus more than 800 previous recipients, is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

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