It’s one of the smartest moves by state government in a long time. On-site testing for the COVID-19 virus will be available at schools across the commonwealth this year.

The Wolf administration announced a partnership with a company to provide free COVID-19 testing in K-12 schools, statewide, this fall. And the state Department of Health has ordered that vaccine providers support COVID-19 vaccination clinics at K-12 schools as well as at colleges and universities. The tab for these initiatives will be covered by federal stimulus money and there couldn’t be a better use of the funds.

An agreement — for $87 million — is with Boston-based Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks, also known as Ginkgo.

This move is for the good of all. At present, children under the age of 12 still cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The virus is spreading. Incomprehensibly, masking at schools is being debated and resisted. It is a situation ripe for positive diagnoses. And the sooner the school, the student and the parent know of a positive test, the sooner action can be taken to forestall spread.

Ginkgo uses a testing method that combines anterior nasal swab samples from consenting individuals in a classroom and runs them as a single test, which allows many students to be checked for the virus. The testing is intended to be self-administered by students but overseen by support staff. Test results are expected in a day or two. If a pool comes back positive for COVID-19, follow-up testing would occur to determine which student or students were infected.

According to the state Department of Health, Ginkgo operates statewide programs in many places including Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, and North Carolina. The program already was piloted in Pennsylvania and is immediately accepting sign-ups from schools and districts.

This is a great opportunity for families and schools. Buy-in should be uncomplicated. Districts should embrace the onsite testing and parents should gratefully get behind the initiative.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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