Schools could have future option to lighten quarantine rules

Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 10/8/21

A new option may be on the horizon for area schools when it comes to keeping students off quarantine and in the classroom. While one district in the county is preparing to move ahead with change, …

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Schools could have future option to lighten quarantine rules

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A new option may be on the horizon for area schools when it comes to keeping students off quarantine and in the classroom. While one district in the county is preparing to move ahead with change, another is determined to wait for more details.

A program called “Test to Stay” proposed at the state level was among the topics discussed by members of the Warren County R-III School Board during its work session held on Sept. 23. Under proposed Test to Stay rules, students who were in close contact with a COVID-19 positive case could be tested at school and potentially avoid having to quarantine at home, if they have negative test results.

“As a district we are positioning ourselves to be able to implement this so we could move forward quickly,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith. “We feel like we need to add some staff to be in position to be prepared for Test to Stay if this becomes an option by the state.”

During the work session, board members voted to hire three additional nurses if the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education chooses to implement the Test to Stay initiative. The additional staff members would be funded by federal stimulus money.

“Our administrators are the ones doing the bulk of our contact tracing and are unable to get the rest of their jobs done,” said Klinginsmith. “We want to assist them by using some relief funding to support our staff and nurses with all the volume of work they have.”

School officials hope the change in quarantine protocols will drastically reduce the number of healthy students kept out of school. Some preparations will still need to be made if the state approves Test to Stay.

“One of the bigger issues is going to be getting enough tests,” said Klinginsmith. “There’s almost $185 million allocated at the state level for COVID relief. My guess is they’re going to be reallocating some of those funds for testing.”

He said several other states, including Illinois, Kentucky and Massachusetts, have implemented the Test to Stay procedure with successful results.

Wright City R-II Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger would like to see more discussion and feedback before making any commitments to such a change in his district.

“I think our concerns are manning and facilitating it,” said Berger. “There’s a lot of details yet to be worked out. We don’t know about the frequency of testing and that is probably one of the biggest questions. Is there an expectation to test daily, or once or twice during a week?”

Berger and Klinginsmith were a part of a DESE webinar which gauged districts’ interest and how receptive they were to the Test to Stay idea. As of now, there is no specific starting date for implementing Test to Stay procedures.

“We are all receptive to it, but there will have to be some more details fleshed out before we commit,” said Berger of R-II. “We’re all looking for options. Any options are better than none.”

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