Students and staff members in the White Hall School District will soon have an alternative to missing class time due to being a close contact with a positive covid-19 individual while at school.
Superintendent Doug Dorris on Thursday said the district will roll out the Test to Stay program as early as next week, but stressed the program is optional for every individual. District officials said they hope the program will help students limit the amount of time missed, as education and health experts still prioritize on-site learning for better academic performance. The district announced the program following a meeting with Arkansas Department of Health officials and stakeholders representing each campus.
“We hope to get our applications to our parents and start the program as early as next week,” Dorris said. “Parents have to give consent. A parent will fill out a consent form. If a student wants to test for covid-19, they can do the testing right there at school.”
The Test to Stay program allows students and staff to remain on-site if they are in close contact with a positive covid-19 individual while at school. Instead of following the standard quarantine policy, students and staff that opt in to the program will receive a covid-19 test. The individual will test for each school day that they would be in quarantine. As long as the individual continues to be asymptomatic and test negative, they will be allowed to stay on campus.
An individual who tests positive for covid-19 must isolate at home for 10 days from the test date if showing no symptoms or 10 days from the start of showing symptoms. A close contact would ordinarily be sent home to quarantine. But with the test, an individual who is asymptomatic and tests negative will be allowed to stay on campus, provided the person wears a mask daily.
The White Hall School District already has a mandate for wearing face masks that will be modified to a guidance starting Jan. 7. Under that policy, a student who has been fully vaccinated would not have to quarantine unless he or she is showing symptoms, and if both the student with covid-19 and the close contact are properly wearing masks and not showing symptoms.
A student or staff member that does not participate in the program will have to follow standard quarantine policy. School nurses will administer each covid test, which is free to the individual. According to guidance from the ADH, each district that participates in Test to Stay must share
data each week with the health department, and if an increase in positive cases occurs in a school setting, the district should consult with the department to determine if Test to Stay should be discontinued.
CORRECTION: Students and staff who are in close contact with a positive covid-19 individual while at school may opt in the program and receive a covid-19 test. As long as a student or staff member who was in close contact with the individual continues to be asymptomatic and test negative, they will be allowed to stay on campus. An individual who tests positive for covid-19 must isolate at home for 10 days from the test date if showing no symptoms or 10 days from the start of showing symptoms. An earlier version included incorrect information about the eligibility of White Hall School District students for the program.