Pooled testing to begin at Amherst Regional Schools, debate over National Guard ensues

Hampshire County

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Pooled testing for Amherst Regional elementary schools can begin October 25.

Amherst School Committee announced Friday their contractor plans to have the program operation using the contractor’s hired staff as the school decides whether or not they will need the help of the National Guard. Representative Mindy Domb got involved with the pooled testing rollout following concerns school districts that wanted pooled testing was not able to do it, due to staffing shortages.

“That’s sort of a red flag because that indicated that the rollout for this particular part of the intervention was not going well,” she told 22News.

However, when the Governor announced an executive order deploying National Guard members to schools to help with testing, a debate during the Amherst Regional School Committee ensued. Committee member Heather Lord warned, in general, having National Guard members in uniform could be “triggering” for students.

“Some of our families have had a parent torn out of their home by ICE and deported and they’ve also lived with that consequence,” said Lord.

A statement from the school committee said in part quote, “We need to hear from our families and staff to understand this. Other considerations include the timeline for getting the program up and running and how well our school community is doing right now in stopping the spread of COVID.”

“I thank you from the depths of my heart for your service and it’s not a personal thing at all,” Heather Lord said.

The School Committee is expected to vote on October 26.

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