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Some schools 'Test-To-Stay' to keep students in the classroom after COVID exposure

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One of the major challenges for students during the pandemic has been – obviously -- not being in school. That’s been due to remote learning, as well as quarantines because of exposure to a positive case.

The Centers for Disease Control is evaluating “test-to-stay” to keep students in class when they come in contact with someone who tests positive.

Several Illinois schools, including the Indian Prairie School District, have been piloting “test-to-stay” over the past few weeks. Adrian Talley is Indian Prairie’s superintendent.

He says it’s being used at four of their elementary schools since those students are unvaccinated and forced to quarantine the most. He says they’ve had around 500 students quarantined this year with over 250 positive COVID cases.

“That's been an issue for us because of the fact that they're not protected. And I think it's also important to remember that lunches always serve as an opportunity for people to be exposed because our students can’t eat with their mask on,” he said.

The “test-to-stay” protocol is simple. Unvaccinated students who are exposed can be tested at school, and if they test negative, they don’t have to quarantine.

Students must be tested on the first, third, fifth and seventh day after exposure. Nurses get results back in 24 hours. If they test positive at any point, they quarantine.

Talley says they haven’t had to use the policy yet, due to low case counts. But he says it would have been helpful to keep students from missing out on class time last year when -- in some Illinois school districts -- hundreds quarantined at once. The district hopes to expand “test-to-stay” to every school in the coming weeks.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.