Newark Public Schools partners to provide pooled COVID-19 testing

NEWARK, NJ — Newark Public Schools announced a partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks Inc. on March 24 to provide pooled SARS-CoV-2 testing. As part of Newark’s planned return to in-person learning on April 12, the district will be implementing weekly testing of students, teachers and staff at local schools from pre-K through high school, beginning with a pilot program at New Jersey Regional Day. Other schools in the district will begin testing when they resume hybrid in-person instruction on April 12. 

As school districts across the nation work to reopen and stay open, regular testing remains critical to ensure the health of students, teachers and staff and create a safe environment for learning. Pooled classroom testing, which combines swabs from all consenting individuals in a classroom and runs them as a single test, is an effective way to test many people at once with fewer resources. Concentric by Ginkgo’s pooled testing program, which is used by schools in hundreds of communities across the country, is cost-effective and straightforward for schools to implement, as Ginkgo provides all the training and testing materials necessary, as well as lab and data-processing services. Students and school administrators alike have described the testing process as simple and painless. 

“We are extremely excited to participate in Ginkgo Bioworks pooled COVID-19 testing for students because it will provide an added level of confidence to parents, students, staff and the community as we return to in-person instruction,” Superintendent of Schools Roger Leon said. “We are poised to join school districts across the country in this important endeavor to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

“The board is extremely excited about the partnership with Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks, who will provide onsite weekly COVID-19 testing of students,” Board of Education President Josephine Garcia said. “The unanimous vote of the board on this resolution is indicative of our ongoing unified support of the Newark Reopening Plan and we look forward to joining other school districts in this endeavor.”

The goal of Concentric by Ginkgo, the public health and biosecurity effort at Ginkgo, is to provide easy, affordable pooled testing to every school in America. The program now supports more than 350,000 students at schools in more than 15 states.

“As much as we are encouraged by the rapid progress of vaccine discovery and administration, we must remain vigilant. Using testing to curb potential outbreaks is an essential supporting strategy for an eventual return to normalcy,” Ginkgo Bioworks chief commercial officer Matthew McKnight said. “To keep schools open, we need low-cost, widespread testing so that we can quickly and easily test every student in America, every week. Pooled testing is a key tool that schools can leverage to give students, teachers and their families the peace of mind that they can return to in-person learning safely, and we’re proud to work with Newark Public Schools to support that within their community.”