Test-to-stay keeps students, staff in school

Published 2:48 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

Students and staff at Harlan Independent Schools who would have normally been on the outside looking in have been able to remain engaged with in-person, face-to-face school activities as a result of the implementation of the “Test-To-Stay” strategy.

During the 2020-21 school year, countless students and staff who were identified as contacts with positive COVID-19 cases were required to quarantine.

In most cases, these students and staff remained asymptomatic and did not contract COVID-19. The typical quarantine would last nearly two weeks, seriously disrupting the learning routines for all involved. Classrooms, entire sports teams, faculty and staff were all impacted in a variety of ways.

By utilizing theĀ optional “Test-to-Stay” strategy of daily COVID-19 testing for those identified as a contact, the district has been able to help both staff and student remain engaged in face-to-face instruction without the need to cancel school.

Students and staff are not required to participate, but may do so in order to continue to participate in normal school activities. Those who choose to participate in the “Test-To-Stay” program are tested for five consecutive days (not including Saturday/Sunday) through a nasal swab that takes less than two minutes to administer. The test results are generally available within 15-20 minutes allowing for testing to be conducted prior to the start of the school day and affording kids an opportunity to not miss a moment of school instruction.

Superintendent C.D. Morton has been very pleased with the benefits of the program.

“The goal is to keep as many staff and students engaged in normal school routines andĀ  activities as possible and as safely as possible,” he said. “The Test-To-Stay strategy helps us do that. Every day a staff member or student tests negative and we are able to continue with our normal school activities it is a step in the right direction. We learned a lot from last year and it would be a mistake to not take advantage of every tool possible to help our students and family navigate this year better than last. ”

The Harlan Independent Schools partner with Clover Fork Clinic to provide nursing services to students and staff throughout the district schools.

By utilizing the nursing resources already on-site, the district is able to integrate the process seamlessly. Focusing on protecting classroom instruction, students are able test prior to the start of the day and begin classes with their peers.

Health Services Director Emily Clem noted, “We are very fortunate to have nurses in our buildings who were ready and willing to help students stay in school. Clover Fork has been a valuable partner throughout the last couple of years but particularly throughout the pandemic. I can’t imagine how we would have managed without them during this time.”

So far, 100 percent of the students and staff who have engaged in Test-To-Stay have tested negative for COVID-19. As a result, they have been able to remain active in school activities.

With only seven positive cases among students, Morton is hopeful for a consistent school year.

Morton estimates that as high as 90 percent of his staff members have been vaccinated.

To access information regarding the Test To Stay strategy, click the Test To Stay link on the top of the district webpage at www.harlan-ind.k12.ky.us.