By: Madison Fugate
An entirely new program was introduced at the most recent Powell County Board of Education meeting as yet another way of making the best effort to keep youth inside of the classrooms as much as possible during the pandemic. The program was introduced by Superintendent, Dr. Anthony Orr, to the board as the “Test to Stay” system. In summary, it was described as a modified quarantine procedure that’s been approved by the CDC. “We feel like this is going to be really helpful,” Superintendent Orr added.
In further detail, the procedure will provide non-invasive PCR tests to students and faculty who have been exposed to the COVID virus at school. The district decided on the PCR tests as they are proven to be more sensitive to the virus and more reliable, therefore there will be fewer false positives or false negatives. These particular PCR tests that will be used will be a half inch swab to the nose which is considered to be “non-invasive.” The tests also provide same-day results, in under 24 hours. The non-invasive tests, provided by Gravity Diagnostics, will be administered by Powell County Schools’ nurses and Sterling Health staff. It was made known that training will be provided for the medical personnel performing these tests as well. These tests will be conducted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The state has set aside funding to cover these tests, which on average cost $96 per test.
A pertinent distinction to bare in mind when considering this system is the fact that these tests will only be provided for school-based close contacts only. However, if family members test positive for the virus, this individual will not qualify for the test to stay program and will be required to quarantine and the reasoning for this is is the likelihood of transmission among households. Once adequate training has been provided for staff and Orr is able to determine a date that the district will be able to begin testing, consent forms will be distributed to parents.
With the tests, if the close contact has a negative test and no symptoms, then they will be able to remain in school and be able to maintain access to bus transportation and in-person learning. If an individual meets these requirements to stay and tests negative, they do still have to wear a mask. In the future, if mask mandates are to relax, students involved with the test to stay system will still be required to mask despite a negative test result. Three negative tests after a close contact will permit the individual to exit quarantine.
Apparently, other districts had started this procedure earlier in August and have had very positive results. Orr did share that he received the support of Powell County Health Department Director, Stacy Crase, in introducing this test to stay system. Orr added this statement in support of the system, “Our main priority this year is maximizing safe, in-person learning.” Though recently there has been a continuous decline in quarantine numbers, Orr assures the board that he remains confident that he expects to continue to see on-going quarantines throughout the rest of the year. Given this overview of the test to stay system and considering the possibilities of the future, a motion was presented to the board to approve the agreement with Gravity Diagnostics to begin providing tests. The motion passed unanimously.