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Progress report on how Test to Stay is working in Vermont schools

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:07 PM EST
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ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) - More Vermont students are staying in school because of the state’s Test to Stay program.

The rapid result antigen tests are used to screen unvaccinated students potentially exposed to COVID.

It’s not clear how many schools overall are participating because that’s not how the state tracks the program. They do know that, so far, 17 independent schools are using Test to Stay. So are 35 districts-- that’s about half the districts in the state. But they can’t say how many schools are in those participating districts.

At Founders Memorial School in Essex Town, Interim Principal Sara Jablonski says with a parent’s consent, students who are unvaccinated and deemed a close contact are taking part in Test to Stay.

“We started last week,” Jablonski said. “It’s going really well. So far, we have done it with four different classrooms and some other students who have been close contacts at school.”

According to the Vermont Agency of Education, 81 schools have tested so far. Last week, 2,600 tests were administered and 51,000 antigen test kits are on order.

“Part of what was holding us up was getting those test kits,” said David Baker, the superintendent of the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union.

Baker says all four of his schools are expecting the Test to Stay kits Wednesday morning.

“We have one class right now in quarantine, that if we had had those test kits, we could have kept a good number of those kids in schools. So yeah, we are looking forward to that test kit arrival,” Baker said.

Baker says they began the enrollment process as soon as the program was announced. More than 100 families out of about 750 have already given consent. But families can still opt-in.

“Most parents when given the choice between having the child at home or having the child at school, I think most of them will give consent,” Baker said.

As the holidays approach, Baker anticipates a need for the tests after Thanksgiving and December breaks.

“I would expect that probably December and January will be busy months, but we will have the kits, we will know how to do it,” Baker said.

Back at Founders, Jablonski also expects to use a lot of tests around the holidays.

“It’s really on a case by case basis, I imagine we will be using it, it has been really effective in keeping student learning continuous,” Jablonski said.

Both Baker and Jablonski say as they see more students vaccinated, the need for these tests becomes less and less. They hope together both methods can keep kids in school.

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