Plans are underway for the first “Test to Stay” event in Canyons School District.
CSD and Alta High administrations have started working on the logistics to hold the detection and prevention testing initiative at the Sandy high school next week. The Test to Stay program is recommended by state health authorities as an alternative to placing an entire school on quarantine for two weeks of online learning.
In effect, the program, in which students and employees are offered rapid antigen tests at school and during school hours, safeguards the school’s in-person learning schedule. However, in order for such programs to work, a vast majority of those who are regularly on campus must participate.
Moving forward, with the ramp up of the rollout of vaccinations for the novel coronavirus as the backdrop, all Canyons District high schools may choose to do in-school testing if they reach a 1 percent threshold of positive COVID-19 cases associated with the school.
In anticipation that Alta High will soon reach the 1 percent threshold, parents of Hawks have been receiving messages about the testing, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Parents also were sent a link to give consent.
Under the Test to Stay guidelines, students who test negative are able to remain in school. Those who test positive are directed to isolate and learn remotely as long as they are not too sick to engage in classes. Those who choose not to be tested are asked to learn remotely for 10 days — or the length of time that the school would have spent in an online-learning schedule if the COVID-19 positivity rate kept rising.
The Test to Stay process identifies those who are asymptomatic and removes them from the environment, thereby reducing the risk of school-based exposures. A recent study conducted by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates that more than half of COVID-19 infections are transmitted by those who do not exhibit symptoms. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2774707
If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days of a school commencing testing, the student does not need to be tested. Families are still encouraged to complete the online consent form, however. This is because it’s unknown how long state health officials will advise keeping the test-to-stay program in place. Students who have recovered from the virus and would like to opt out of testing will need to bring documentation showing the date they received a positive COVID-19 result.
The in-school testing also will supplant any upcoming required testing for students to participate in Utah High School Activities Association-sanctioned sports or activities. The results of this round of testing will suffice for the students who “Test to Play” as part of their participation in UHSAA activities.
The consent form completed by parents for the Test to Play will be accepted for Test to Stay. There is no need for parents to submit another consent form.
Ten days from the date a school commences test-to-stay testing, the school’s COVID-19 case counts will reset to zero. Thereafter, if case counts continue to rise and reach the 1 percent threshold for further action, Canyons District administrators will again work with health authorities to determine next steps, which could include another round of test-to-stay testing.
The Test to Stay is just one more way Canyons District is focusing on safeguarding students and employees, while still focusing on increasing students achievement, in this era of COVID-19.
CSD this week reminded parents about the new guidelines that health authorities released in December
Starting immediately, students and employees who are exposed at school to someone with COVID-19 no longer need to quarantine if it can be confirmed that both parties were wearing face coverings at the time of exposure. Health officials will still notify anyone identified through contact tracing as having a close contact exposure, and encourage careful monitoring for symptoms.
If either one of the individuals involved in a close-contact exposure was not wearing a face covering, the person who was exposed must quarantine. The quarantined individual can return to school in 10 days if he or she has no symptoms. Or, he or she can undergo COVID-19 testing on the seventh day following exposure. If the test is negative, he or she can return to school early.
Also, if at any time during the 14 days after their exposure a student or employee develops symptoms of COVID-19, he or she will be directed to isolate and get tested right away. These protocols apply only to school-based exposures.
State government and health officials also have revised schoolwide quarantine decisions.
For larger schools, those with more than 1,500 students and staff, the state-recommended COVID case threshold for considering moving a school to virtual learning is now 1 percent. This follows guidelines Canyons District adopted early in the school year, and that several other school districts subsequently adopted.
The threshold for schools with populations of less than 1,500 is 15 positive school-associated cases.
If a Canyons District school meets these thresholds, District Administrators consult with health officials on next steps, which can include moving the school to remote learning — the recommended length of time now being 10 days.