Test to Stay program reduces quarantine period for students identified as close contacts

More schools are becoming interested in a state program called "Test to Stay," according to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The program offers a modified quarantine period of 7 days for students who are identified as close contacts, but under specific requirements.

"Number one [the district] needs to have an agreement with their local health office so that everyone is on the same page about participation. They need to be operating a testing program and most of our districts are operating a testing program," said Assistant Superintendent Martin Mueller, OSPI Student Engagement and Support. "Then that student can stay in school in what’s called a modified quarantine for seven days, if number one they’re asymptomatic, number two they continue to wear a mask and number three they’re tested at least twice during that seven days and they test negative."

The Monroe School District said it entered into an agreement with the Snohomish Health District for the Test to Stay program. Free COVID-19 drive-thru testing is available at the district office parking lot beginning on Oct. 12.

According to the district website it said: "This will allow students who have been identified as a close contact to a COVID-19 positive individual at school* to shorten their quarantine period to 7 days, provided certain criteria are met."

The district website also notes that while students are allowed to return to school after 7 days from their last known exposure, they must still quarantine for actives outside of school for the complete quarantine period of ten days.

RELATED: Local families raise concerns and challenges with students quarantining at home

Ashlee Davis has a daughter in the Monroe School District at Chain Lake Elementary who had to quarantine for two weeks at the end of last school year.

"If she’s not showing symptoms and we can prove she’s fine I want my kids back in school," said Davis. "I want all of this to just go away, so yeah, having seven days, I mean, I would gladly let them test twice just to get my kids to go back."

In Snohomish County, the Health District told FOX 13 News there are three other districts that have applied for Test to Stay.

In Pierce County, there are 16 schools and districts that have applied for the program, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD), and so far eight of them have been approved.

"Anything we can do to get kids who aren’t sick back into the classroom," said Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive, during Wednesday’s health briefing.

As for the other districts who have yet to get approval, TPCHD Director of Heath Anthony Chen explained, "Every school has to explain how they are actually going to be doing it and so right now that’s also part of the pressure on them. So it’s an issue of, if they have the capacity to do the testing. If they have the staff to do it. They also need a place to do the testing, so that’s what’s holding it up."

"For this year, I think it’s a really important tool to maintain health and safety at the school," said Mueller. "There’s a lot of value in being able to keep those kids in school as opposed to having to stay at home for 10 to 14 days."

Test to Stay is only available to students who have been exposed to COVID-19 at school. It does not apply to exposures that happened outside of school.


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