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200,000 COVID tests being sent to school districts across Mass., officials say

At-home rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

State education officials said Wednesday that they’re making 200,000 at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 tests available to school districts across Massachusetts so teachers and staff can test themselves before they return to school after the holiday break.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, said every school district in the Commonwealth will receive enough kits to distribute two tests to each employee. An agency spokesperson said DESE isn’t mailing the kits directly to districts; rather, school districts will pick them up for teachers at different regional distribution sites.

DESE said in a statement that it strongly encourages all school staffers to take one at-home antigen test no more than 24 hours before they return to work. Staff should notify school officials in their district if they test positive.

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The agency said the second test can be used later at a person’s discretion. Staff members, however, are not required to test themselves before returning to work, according to the statement.

“DESE staff worked very hard to secure these at-home rapid antigen tests for schools and we are all grateful for their efforts and hard work to help schools during this difficult time,” said state Education Secretary James Peyser. “We all remain committed to keeping schools open despite the recent uptick in COVID cases.”

Peyser’s words were echoed in the statement by his colleague in state government, Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley.

“Doing everything we can to keep students learning in classrooms is critical,” Riley said. “Providing these tests to teachers and staff is one more thing we can do to ensure that is possible.”

The agency said it last week distributed more than 6 million KN95 masks to schools to provide one mask per day for all teachers and staff, including bus drivers, to wear when school reopens in January.

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Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.