LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Fayette County Public Schools have announced a plan that will keep students in the classroom after potential exposure to COVID-19.
The district says with the surge of COVID-19 cases, a growing number of FCPS students have been placed in quarantine because of potential exposures both on and off-campus. However, most do not test positive for COVID-19 after an in-school exposure. Instead, most cases are spread through their household or in their community.
To reduce the amount of school missed by students in quarantine, FCPS is piloting an optional program called "Test to Stay in School." Students can stay in school as long as they are asymptomatic and receive free on-campus testing Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays for 7 days from the initial exposure. If that includes weekends or holidays, they need to be tested again once they're back in school. Students must refrain from other activities, except school, until day 8.
The program, "Test to Stay in School," will be in partnership with the U.S. CDC, the Kentucky Department of Health, and the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. The students will receive a PCR rapid test, which takes 35-40 minutes to get results. Tests will be conducted in a large area where students can be isolated, like a cafeteria or gym. The program only applies to students who have close contact with a positive case in school, not if they were in contact at home or outside school.
Participating schools are Breckinridge, Clays Mill, Dixie, James Lane Allen, and Julius Marks elementary schools, as well as Crawford and Jessie Clark middle schools.
"These schools were chosen based on the numbers of COVID-19 cases and quarantines they have experienced recently," the school district says in a news release. "We also tried to select schools in many different areas of town, in order to get a good population sample. This program has worked safely and successfully in school districts across the U.S. and we are excited to give our children this opportunity. We know that in-person learning is best for our students and we want to keep them in school as much as possible."
If the program is effective, Superintendent Demetrus Liggins says it could potentially expand to other campuses. The program is being paid for through a grant from the Kentucky Department of Health. All costs are expected to be reimbursed.
Liggins says COVID-19 testing will begin on Monday. They are collecting consent forms from parents.
The school district says they will continue to make decisions based on the guidance of federal and local health officials.
Right now, 1,244 students of around 42,000 in Fayette County are in quarantine. Since the beginning of the school year on August 11, 1,470 students have tested positive for COVID-19 along with 231 staff members. 8,920 students have been quarantined along with 75 staff members. Currently, a young male student is on a ventilator and another student is hospitalized from the virus.