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Kentucky schools consider 'test to stay' amid quarantines

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Posted at 6:52 PM, Sep 13, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — 'Test to Stay' is a new option districts have in their toolbox, thanks in part to a law passed last week during the special session. While some superintendents aren't sure, others are welcoming any alternative to quarantines.

Franklin County Schools is one of those school districts considering the alternatives like 'test to stay' mentioned by lawmakers in their special session.

"It's not a mandate, but it is something that we have been looking at doing prior to the legislative session," said Superintendent Mark Kopp. "It's just now, we've had this other company that started to reach out and maybe as a result of that legislative action. So that was, if nothing else, it was fortuitous timing."

They're especially considering options because a week into the school year, they made the difficult choice to use 5 Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) days. More than 100 people were COVID positive and 700 quarantined in their school system.

"That's a very high percentage, and when it starts impacting the ability to bring in substitute teachers and cover classes," said Kopp.

With it being so close to Labor Day, they figured the timing was right to hit a reset. But quarantines have made their jobs more difficult.

"It's difficult for school teams, who are trying to manage the number of folks they need to contact and make aware that their child has been quarantine, especially when sometimes they might not hear about a positive case until a day later when testing results come back. And then the action of going back to do contact tracing, and we want to do all those things to keep our kids safe, but it is a very labor-intensive process," said Deputy Superintendent Sharla Six.

Instead of quarantining everyone within a three feet radius for more than 15 minutes, the 'test and stay' option would give asymptomatic students an opportunity to test negative for a certain number of days and stay in school. There would be rapid tests at each of the schools for students exposed to COVID.

There are a number of concerns about the accuracy of rapid tests, but Kopp says it will be a good additional resource.

"Testing is only one mitigation strategy, it's not the end all be all. But it does provide us with a lot of very important data that we can then make decisions to protect the safety of our students and staff," said Kopp.

Franklin County Schools is in talks with three separate testing companies to not only offer the test to stay program but more options for students and staff in general.