MPCSD will monitor wastewater for COVID-19 at two schools

by Parke Treadway on April 11, 2022

Menlo Park City School District is partnering with Stanford University, Concentric by Ginkgo (the biosafety and public health arm of Ginkgo Bioworks), and Dysert Environmental to monitor wastewater at two school campuses with the goal of determining the utility of performing SARS-CoV-2 wastewater monitoring in K-12 schools that are already conducting routine asymptomatic pooled clinical testing.

MPCSD conducts weekly pooled testing, with follow-up individual testing for positive pools; 100% of staff and 88% of students participate in this testing program, which is planned to continue through the end of the school year.

For an eight week period beginning on April 12, 2022, wastewater samples will be taken from Laurel School Lower Campus and Hillview Middle School. Samples will be retrieved by the Dysert Environmental team, processed by Stanford, and the extracted RNA sequenced by Concentric to determine SARS-CoV-2 lineage. Objectives of this program include determining to what extent the virus can be detected in wastewater from an elementary or middle school, comparing the virus concentration in collected samples to the results of the schools’ regular pooled and follow-up testing, and publishing the findings of the program.

Throughout the pandemic, MPCSD has been interested in contributing to scientific knowledge about the virus and its impact on schools. The district has contributed data about its case numbers and safety protocols, which have helped schools across the country confidently reopen. When approached by Concentric to participate in this wastewater project, MPCSD was happy to help.

“Routine monitoring for COVID-19 is like building a weather map for infectious disease in your community,” said Renee Wegrzyn, Vice President of Business Development at Concentric by Ginkgo. “Wastewater monitoring, in particular, is a promising method to help equip schools and public health leaders with critical data to prepare for potential future outbreaks. Partnerships like this one are so important to help advance innovative solutions for infectious disease management, and we are proud to work with Menlo Park City School District and Stanford University on this effort.”

In addition to furthering research about SARS-CoV-2, MPCSD school leaders will receive weekly reports about the program’s findings. Comparing wastewater data with the district’s existing testing program data should yield valuable findings about the efficacy of routine testing. MPCSD looks forward to participating in this research and continuing to help the scientific and educational communities design the best ways to keep schools open and safe as we move into the endemic phase of living with Covid-19.

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