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'Test to Stay' program could reduce number of quarantines in JCPS

If passed by the school board, students and staff exposed to COVID could bypass quarantine and stay in class if they meet certain criteria each day.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) students and staff could soon have the option to bypass quarantine following exposure to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Jefferson County School Board members will discuss a "Test to Stay" proposal, where negative tests would suffice to stay in the classroom if other criteria are met.

According to district data, nearly 19,000 students have been quarantined throughout the school year and almost 1,000 are currently in quarantine as of Monday.

RELATED: Oldham County Schools offer 'Test to Stay' option in effort to reduce quarantines

Concerned with how this will hamper learning, Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio recommended the proposal to the board Monday.

If passed, exposed students and faculty would have the option to stay in class if they meet these criteria:

  • Asymptomatic
  • Wearing a mask at school at all times
  • Not living in close contact with a COVID-positive person who can't isolate

Finally, each person would need to test negative each night before school, lasting through the seventh day after exposure.

Kentucky Senate Bill 1 gave districts the ability to adopt the state Department of Health's "Test to Stay" Model School Program, either in whole or in part.

"At any given time, I could have at least 20 [students] a day out," said Susan Smuskiewicz, a JCPS parent and teacher at Atherton High School, where COVID testing signs are plastered all over campus. Smuskiewicz said she finds herself somewhere in the middle of how she feels about the program. 

"On one hand, we want to keep kids in school. But also I'm afraid -- my son is type-1 diabetic," she said.

RELATED: Gov. Beshear urging bonuses for essential workers during COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, Rose Reams, a parent of two Wilder Elementary students, said she's worried about the possibility of false negatives.

"I hope parents understand what 'Test-to-Stay' is," Reams said. "If you send them home, you're better off."

Wilder Elementary teacher Ivonne Rovira sees the same drawbacks.

"[Many of] these kids are not vaccinated, and for some kids, they never even know they have it," Rovira said.

JCPS isn't the only Kentucky school district trying out "Test to Stay." Oldham County Schools implemented the program early in September.

Director of Student Services Eric Davis said he's seen good results.

"Average of 200 kids on quarantine [on any given day], and about 140 of those 200 are coming to do Test to Stay, and very, very few positives are coming from that," Davis said. "That's a huge difference. A lot of kids who are getting in-person instruction who would not have gotten it before," Davis said.

JCPS is also proposing "Test to Play," which would require students participating in extracurricular activities to get weekly tests offered at their schools. That would include athletics.

The school board will meet Tuesday evening to discuss. The meeting will be at Louisville Central High School at 6 p.m.

Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at ikimmartin@whas11.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@isaiah_km) and Facebook.

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