“Test and stay” program hopes to cut down on students out of school for showing COVID symptoms

WESTERLY, R.I. (WLNE) – Two school districts in Rhode Island will be pilots for the new “test and stay” program.

Governor Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green met with state and school leaders in Westerly and Smithfield about the program, which hopes to cut down on students out of the classroom.

“Kids that are close contacts, parents could have an option to have them tested and if they’re not positive, they’d stay in school,” Governor Dan McKee said.

The program would immediately test students that would get sent home for showing a single symptom associated with COVID-19. If that student is negative, they would be able to stay in school instead of being sent home to quarantine.

Governor McKee says the program is in an exploratory phase, but the hope would be to expand statewide.

The Superintendent of Westerly Schools, Mark Garceau, says the program would be a game-changer.

“It’s not so much the cases. You ask about the number of cases down here in Westerly, we’ve had maybe 6-8 cases since we’ve opened, but that results in numerous students going into quarantine for extended periods of time,” Garceau said. “So, perfectly healthy kids are basically just out of school.”

Since the start of the school year, 1,335 students across the state tested positive for COVID-19. Education Commissioner Infante-Green says the number of students placed in quarantine is much greater than that. That’s because of the state health department’s COVID playbook, which says students should quarantine if they display a single symptom.

“We’ve heard heartbreaking stories of kids that have to go home because they were close contacts. So if they’re able to test and stay in the school, they’re going to be able to continue to learn,” Commissioner Infante-Green said. “We’ve been testing all along, but what happens now is the decision to actually have them stay in the school. So that’s what’s different and that’s what is important for us because we need the kids to be in school.”

The program is not yet in effect, but officials hope to implement it soon.

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