MONTREAL -- Hillcrest Academy in Chomedey is getting a scrubdown after 17 students contracted COVID-19 and the school closed.

But that experience also made the school a prime location for a pilot project: its students are getting at-home saliva tests that, if they work well, could be another tool making in-person school safer for the rest of the pandemic.

The regional health authority offered the tests, which the school then gave to parents to take home and administer to their kids there.

“It’s very simple,” said principal Mary Lazaris. The students spit into a straw, then the parent drops the sample off at the local testing centre, where it’s analyzed.

“We know it works very well because many parents who took the spit test had the result within 24 hours,” said Lazaris.

One benefit, aside from not having a swab up your nose, is that it allows families to avoid being in a testing site.

“The last place I want to be is somewhere where a lot of positive cases are going to be,” said one parent, Michael Khoury.

The regional health authority said that with back-to-school, speed and numbers are key for them—this project can help get students tested quickly, isolate the positive ones and isolate the positive class “bubbles,” keeping the rest of the school COVID-free.

The health authority says it hopes to have spit-based tests in all Laval schools by the end of April.