|BCC Holding Regular COVID-19 Testing for Faculty, Students|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
03:41PM / Monday, November 16, 2020
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College has been doing its part to keep the college campus healthy with regular COVID-19 testing.
The college's program was designed to address its needs in compliance with Phase III of the state's reopening
Every two weeks since the beginning of the semester in September, BCC has offered free testing to any staff, faculty, and on-campus student. This service is volunteer and offered through vendor County Ambulance.
So far, 153 BCC community members have been tested and testing will continue until the end of the semester.
"Our testing protocols are part of our Phase III reopening plan. We opted to create a surveillance testing plan by testing every two weeks since the beginning of the semester," Vice President of Administration & Finance Andrea Wadsworth said. "Our footprint is very small on the campus. We feel this component helps to support the safety of our on-campus students, faculty, and staff."
Wadsworth hopes that Pittsfield will become eligible for this program in light of the dramatic uptick in COVID-19 cases the city has seen since the end of October.
"We are so lucky to be working with County Ambulance on our testing protocols. We are a small college and in order to take advantage of bulk testing, we would have to order a minimum of 3000 tests. Our capacity to use that quantity is not feasible due to our small on campus footprint," she said.
The funds used to cover the cost of this program are from the Governor's Emergency Education Relief funds. GEER funds were issued to assist COVID-19 related expenses. These funds are awarded to local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and other education-related entities which are governmental, nonprofit or for-profit entities within the State that provide services that support preschool, elementary, secondary, or higher education.
Across the United States, GEER funds have allocated $2,953,230,000 for education emergency relief funds to different states, $50,843,703 of that being allocated to Massachusetts.
BCC is also providing students with assistance from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, funds through the college's financial aid office. Since the beginning of the semester, BCC has provided a total of $6,488 to students for additional emergency financial grants and $949 in reimbursements for tuition, housing, and room and board with this funding from the CARES Act. In all, it has disbursed more than $526,000 in aid to students.
Wadsworth explained it is important to conduct testing on site because students come from surrounding communities for an education at BCC and local health departments take care of contact tracing, so if a person from another county tests positive, that information may not get back to the college.
Even one case from a different county could have a ripple effect, she said.
BCC is still operating under a remote learning model except for degree programs that require in-person education such as nursing program and lab sciences.
Correction: this article erroneously attributed to the college's testing program to the state's Stop the Spread program. The state's program is available in a number of high-transmission areas but does not include the Berkshires. iBerkshires regrets the error and has corrected the article.