Three Boston public school nurses have criticized the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing programs in the district, questioning whether they are uniformly protecting students against an outbreak.

The nurses say the in-school program is failing to test children routinely and, in some cases, at all, a problem they say stems from insufficient contract tracing to identify close contacts of positive cases. Both issues played into the recent outbreak at the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain.

The state has contracted with CIC Health, a private company based in Cambridge, to conduct pool testing of students. Earlier this month, the district brought in HealthCareIT Leaders, which is based near Atlanta, to expand its own contact tracing.

“Because the district operates on a 'no news is good news' philosophy, families are thinking their student doesn't have COVID when, in reality, they weren’t tested at all,” BPS nurse Colleen Wiggins wrote to the Boston School Committee in a Nov. 17 letter obtained by GBH News. “And there is no communication from the district. Our families are being left to find out things from each other via group texts. Our families with less access and literacy, our families most vulnerable and in need of support, are left out all together.”

Wiggins, the school nurse at the Conley Elementary school in Roslindale, said in an interview that 75 percent of students at that school are tested by four members of CIC's team. That program “runs fairly well,” she said, but contrasted it with a larger Boston school she declined to identify where two to five CIC staffers conduct testing.

In the second week of November at that larger school, she said 39 pools were not tested because the vending team “ran out of time” and had to move on to another school.

“Nurses are not a group that scare easily — so when I say we’re terrified, I mean it,” Wiggins wrote.

Erin McManus, a school nurse at the Thomas A. Edison K-8 School in Brighton whose son attends Boston Latin Academy, also wrote to the School Committee because she wanted them to know that testing is “a nightmare on the ground.”

“My own son has been consented all year and has not even been tested once. Think about that for a minute,” McManus wrote in a letter obtained by GBH News. “This is inexcusable and frankly embarrassing.”

McManus, who lives in Jamaica Plain, said in an interview that contact tracing in the schools has also been insufficient, allowing potentially infected students to stay in school as long as a week before getting tested.

“This means that any close contacts that could have COVID are sitting in BPS classrooms, in BPS cafeterias and on BPS school buses on days one, two and three, and potentially infecting other students and staff,” McManus said. “We have been begging for help."

When asked if students who want testing receive it, BPS spokeswoman Sharra Gaston said in an email that students are tested in school "at least once a week" and that district officials are supposed to update parents if a child is not tested.

"If we are informed that a test from DESE and CIC is not going to happen, then we work with the School Leader to provide an update," she wrote, referring to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said at last week's School Committee meeting that officials would begin notifying families when a positive case or pool at a school was discovered — something that had not been occurring.

Gaston said the district has been in communication with DESE and CIC regularly about the need for additional staffing and is exploring additional hiring.

CIC referred all questions about its testing program to the state.

In October, the state offered National Guard assistance with testing for school sites that were short-staffed across Massachusetts. Colleen Quinn, a spokeswoman for DESE, said if students were not getting tested, BPS could have requested National Guard help but did not.

The state also sent five additional testing staffers to the Curley in recent weeks to help six workers already at the site, she said.

Parents of some Curley students had already begun keeping their children home from school in early November, before the district officially closed the school as word spread among parents about the rising number of cases.

Cassellius held a sudden news conference on Nov. 9 with Boston public health officials to disclose that 46 COVID cases had been identified at the school across 21 classrooms and concluded the infection could not be contained. BPS verified that an additional 17 positive cases were identified at the school later the same week, bringing the total count to 63 by Nov. 12. The shutdown sent about 1,000 students and 100 staffers back to remote learning through Nov. 19.

Curley’s closure also led to finger-pointing over who bears responsibility for the closure, the first in the city this school year.

Last week, the Boston Teachers Union asked both the city and the state for an impartial investigation into what went wrong.

The BPS nurses cited an array of problems not limited to Curley. One BPS nurse, who identified herself only as Lauren, wrote to the district to say "what we're witnessing on the ground, in schools, is negligence at best."

Some schools are not testing all the students who have parental consent to be tested, she said, while testing others who have rescinded their consent. Some schools also offer vaccination clinics, while others do not, she said.

Wiggins said school nurses last June submitted a “Comprehensive Review and Analysis of COVID-19 Pool Testing with a Focus on Family Engagement and Equity: Recommendations for Future School-Based Initiatives" to district officials.

“Nothing has come of it,” Wiggins said. “In my years of providing nursing care to our communities' most vulnerable people, I truthfully have never been more disheartened and angry.”