“Test and stay works by allowing the students who would otherwise have to quarantine at home because they had a close contact at school, to continue to come to school. However they have to test each morning prior to going to class,” explained Ahava Silkey-Jones, DaVinci’s Executive Director. “We’ve been able, since the start of our pilot program to keep a large percentage of students in school that would have otherwise had to quarantine at home.”
If there’s a close COVID contact, students who opt in, are tested for seven days. The program was recommended after a school COVID task force saw a study in England that showed it could be done safely. It started here in November, just as a surge was about to begin.
“We had 61 students opt in to our Test and Stay program. And of those 61, only one tested positive during “Test and Stay,” said Silkey-Jones. “That means 60 students had the opportunity to attend school in November and December that would have otherwise been home for at least a seven day quarantine.”
Silkey-Jones says the ability to keep a healthy child in school is huge for their education and social-emotional learning.
“We’ve heard very positive feed-back from parents for this opportunity because students are devastated when they have to go home. They’ve had enough time at home, they want to be at school and this has been a way to help us create that environment.”
It means a parent might get a call to have a child tested rather than just keeping a student at home. Molly Guy is a parent of a 4th grader and a member of the task force, who says it also eases parents’ anxiety.
“Yeah, I think as a parent, as a guardian these past two years have been really challenging. There’s a lot of families navigating work responsibilities, care for other children, other family members, and having the concern about getting that call from school and having a child stay home from school for 7-10 days was always concerning,” said Guy.
School officials say the state recently encouraged schools to use Test and Stay as an alternative to quarantine. There are resources to be considered, including people needed to give the tests, and having enough tests on hand. But DaVinci is consdering making the trial program permanent. Others may consider it too.
“We’ll see over the next few weeks how many other schools will adopt the program,” said Guy. “I think the resources available, and Omicron will be an interesting decision point for many schools in many districts in the coming weeks.”
DaVinci officials also say the program has been helpful for staff who have a close COVID contact. During the pilot program, 4 staff members were able to stay at work who otherwise would have had to quarantine.