Webster County Schools are preparing to roll out a new “Test to Stay” program that will drastically reduce or even eliminate unnecessary quarantine days for students and staff in the event that they are exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
Individuals are considered exposed if they are unvaccinated and spend more than 15 minutes in close proximity to someone who tests positive for the coronavirus while not wearing a mask. Currently such an exposure will result in a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Approved during the recent special called session of the state legislature, the program allows individual schools to work in partnership with the health department and healthcare professionals to develop a plan that allows students and staff that are exposed an option to test out of quarantine. This will apply to both in-school and extracurricular activities.
Test to Stay will give students and staff an option to be tested on what would be their first day of quarantine. If they test negative, they will be allowed to return to school and other activities, but they must test each day for five days.
Failure to do so means they must complete the 10-day quarantine.
After five consecutive negative tests, they will be released from quarantine.
Students must have parental or guardian consent to be tested.
If students or staff choose not to take part in the Test to Stay program, they must following the existing 10-day quarantine rule.
According to superintendent Rhonda Callaway, Webster County Schools is working with Louisville-based Pearl Diagnostics. An official start date to the program has yet to be announced, but is expected to be soon.
The district is not financially responsible for the program, which will be funded by the state. The school is only required to provide a testing location, which will most likely be at the Clarky Clark Athletic Complex in Dixon.
The program will also offer surveillance testing to students or staff and any member of their household in the event they are exposed. This testing is not open to the general public.
In order to be eligible for Test to Stay, schools must have a mask order in effect. During Monday’s meeting, board members officially approved the district’s existing COVID-19 operations plan, which continues the current mask requirement.
Callaway put the plan in effect prior to the start of school, but board members Tim McCormick and James Nance requested that board members have a chance to vote on the plan.
Nance was not present for Monday’s meeting, but voiced his support for the plan via the phone.
“All of the experts I listen to say masks save lives,” he said. “I strongly support it.”
McCormick, however, took a stand against the plan.
“I can’t support it because I don’t support mandatory masking,” he said.
The plan passed with McCormick being the lone vote against the proposal.
In other business, Callaway informed board members that the Kentucky Department of Education had recently passed a vaccine initiative for local districts. Under this initiative, all school district employees are eligible for a one time $100 bonus for getting fully vaccinated.
Districts must fund the bonus themselves on the front end, but it will be fully reimbursed by the KDE.
To be eligible for the bonus, employees must be fully vaccinated no later than December 1, 2021. The district must then submit a request for reimbursement to the state no later than January 31, meaning employees can expect payment in either December of January.
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