OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. — Oldham County Schools (OCS) is launching a new initiative to reduce how much time students and staff spend in quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19.
The district said it is partnering with Pearl Diagnostic Laboratory to provide a "Test to Stay" option at its schools.
“Now with this option we could potentially have kids that would not miss any instruction and that is a huge plus to us," Director of Student Services Eric Davis said.
Any OCS student or staff member who would normally need to quarantine because of COVID exposure can get a free rapid antigen test every day before school. If the test is negative, the student or staff member can proceed with the school day as normal. If the test comes back positive, that person will need to follow proper isolation procedures.
“Meaning they would miss no instruction as long as the tests are negative and they don’t develop any symptoms," Davis said.
The student or staff member must continue to get daily tests for every school day within the quarantine period (five to seven days).
The district said the tests are voluntary; if a student or staff member would rather complete their full quarantine normally, they can do so. Per the Kentucky Department of Health, someone may return to school if they do not have symptoms after 10 days or if they get a negative COVID test after seven days.
Davis said students also have the option to test on the 5th day of their quarantine and return to school on the 8th day if they are negative.
The testing isn't foolproof. The Oldham County Health Department acknowledged students could test negative early in the day and be positive by the time they get home.
"If they have a negative test we do think it is safe for them to attend school that day, while still taking the layered prevention strategies," Matt Rhodes, the department's director, said.
Davis says only 2% of OCS students who are quarantined from school exposure end up testing positive, and he doesn't see a high demand for regular testing.
OCS doesn't have a regular or asymptomatic testing program, but its something the health department hopes more schools will consider.
"Not everyone is agreeable to doing surveillance testing, we're hoping more people will be agreeable to the test to stay methodology," Rhodes said.
The goal of the "Test to Stay" program is to reduce quarantine time for everyone in the district. The tests are only available to members of the OCS community - they are not open to the public.
The first testing site opens Wednesday, Sept. 8 at the Oldham County Schools Art Center. The site will be open from 6 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. every day school is in session.
OCS said the district plans to add extra testing sites later this year.
For more information on the testing process and the forms needed, click here.