MONTREAL -- Students and staff at two Montreal high schools will soon be part of a rapid COVID-19 testing pilot project.

The two schools are Calixa-Lavallee in Montreal North and Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie in Outremont.

Testing begins on Monday, when 25 per cent of students and staff will be tested randomly.

The goal is "to be able to find those that are COVID-positive and remove them from the chain of transmission,” said a lead researcher in the project, Dr. Caroline Quach.

Quebec said rapid tests can be less reliable than the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Quach said this pilot project will feature two tests -- a rapid test and a gargle test, which is the most sensitive test the team has.

“The only thing is it can’t be rapid because you have to bring it to a lab,” explained Quach.

Results will be compared between the two tests.

Quach says the pilot project has also received permission from Montreal public health and Quebec's health minister to test if a seven-day quarantine could work for classes with a positive COVID-19 case.

“The group who would come back at seven days, would then be tested regularly, so every three days, with that rapid test to see if we are able to detect transmission when they come back,” said Quach.

“It’s a matter of bringing them back a week earlier, but making sure that we’re not having an outbreak. If we see that doesn’t work, then we’ll go back to 14 days.”


Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, wonders why these rapid tests are only being used now.

“We have this pilot project that’s going to be happening with results that will end up happening probably in April or June. Then we hear that the vaccination will be hopefully done by September,” Yetman said. “A pilot project is great, except that it’s not going to help the situation right now and we need the situation to be solved right now.”


Rapidly detecting a case of COVID-19 will be an advantage for the two schools.

“If positive results to COVID are detected quickly, that will allow us to react quickly. And by that I mean isolating the student and sending the whole class home for a quarantine period,” said Antonella Picillo, director of student services at Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie.

The principal at Calixa-Lavallee High School said the idea of a seven-day quarantine is interesting and would allow students to come back to school early, where they are happy.

The pilot project is expected to last until the end of the school year.