GCR-2 extends break, approves ‘Test-to-Stay’

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 11/17/21

The Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education on Monday voted to extend Thanksgiving break using two AMI (alternative methods of instruction) days because of the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

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GCR-2 extends break, approves ‘Test-to-Stay’

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The Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education on Monday voted to extend Thanksgiving break using two AMI (alternative methods of instruction) days because of the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

When students return to class Nov. 29 a “Test To Stay” program will be in place.

Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy introduced the subject of closing school on Monday, Nov. 22, and Tuesday, Nov. 23, prior to Thanksgiving break because of the rise in COVID-19 cases in the district. As of Monday night there were 29 positive student cases and 15 positive staff cases. The worst week was Oct. 11-18. The substitute fill rate is at 83 percent, which has improved from 73 to 78 percent this time last year.

“The numbers have gone up,” Hardy told the board. “Last year students and staff were off the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving (in hopes that the extra days would allow time for symptoms to be revealed before attending a group setting and possibly spreading the virus).”

Hardy suggested using two of the district’s 36 hours of eligible AMI days.

“With AMI, students will be given a reading assignment to read on Monday and Tuesday and they will have to complete a log when they get back because it counts towards attendance,” Hardy said. “That way both school days still count towards attendance.”

The board wants to use the additional two days to clean the buildings. 

“I really want to shut the buildings down and clean them well, then shut them up,” Hardy said.

A Dutchgirls basketball game against Borgia on Nov. 22 in the high school gym will still be held, but the building will be closed so people can’t walk through the halls.

The board approved the additional two days off to be covered with AMI with a 7-0 vote out of “an abundance of caution.”

A new option

When students return to school, they will have an alternative choice to being excluded from school and activities. Due to a grant from the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), rapid tests are being provided to the schools for close contacts to be tested in an effort to help keep students in-seat. Hardy sent out a letter on Nov. 16 about the new “Test to Stay” program.

“We have free testing that parents can choose to test students,” Hardy said. “Nurses agreed and are comfortable with administering the test.”

According to the district’s letter, the School Re-entry and Continuity Plan will now offer the “Test to Stay” option to students who are close contacts. It is a voluntary program. Students and parents have the choice to continue education in-seat by testing within the first three days and again in a week.

“Testing is free. If deemed a close contact, you may use the ‘Test-to-Stay’ option. Students will be required to mask during the full 14-days while in attendance,” according to the letter.

With the “Test-to-Stay” option, parents and students have three options if they are in close contact with a positive case. Options include:

Option 1: A 14-day Quarantine: No testing or masking while at school. This is the safest option, and the only option for preschool students. It requires a 14 day quarantine from the last day of exposure to the positive case. The student can return to school on day 15 provided the student has remained symptom free.

Option 2: A 10-day Modified Quarantine: No testing, but requires a mask to be worn at school and in public. This position requires 10-days of quarantine from the student’s last day of exposure. The student can return to school on day 11 provided the student has been and remains symptom free. They must wear a mask and social distance on days 11 to 14 until full quarantine is completed.

Option 3: “Test-to-Stay”: Students are allowed to remain in the school with COVID testing, masks are required to be worn, and may have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. 

This option is only for close contact exposures in the school setting, not for household contact or exposure.

Students must wear a mask consistently and correctly in school at all times during the full 14 days past the last date of exposure to the positive case. If they cannot, they will be asked to stay at home. The student must receive a minimum of three rapid antigen tests during the first seven days of the quarantine period.

For the Test-to-Stay option, students must test immediately after the identification of a close contact.

A minimum of two additional rapid antigen tests are required within the first seven days of the quarantine — preferably on two non-consecutive days.

This option allows students to participate in extracurricular activities with possible additional testing needed.

Students must comply with the three tests in the first seven days of exposure, but also must be tested each day that they participate in an event throughout the duration of the 14 day quarantine period. Daily tests for practice are not required but testing is required for any game, concert, performance, contest, etc. A negative test result or note from a healthcare provider or pharmacy must be provided prior to the event.

Also according to the letter, the district will offer an, “antigen testing to students and staff who are symptomatic or are considered close contacts. Parents will be asked for written consent before tests are administered. Home tests will not be accepted.”

Parents may discuss which option they are interested in with their school nurse. 

The board approved changes to the Safe Return and Continuity Plan with a 7-0 vote.

The Gasconade County R-2 district joins neighboring Gasconade R-1 in Hermann to implement the policy. Maries County R-2 in Belle has also applied for the Test-to-Stay grant through DHSS and is awaiting a response.

The Gasconade County R-2 School District will receive $422,060 in grant funds to implement the program. The funds are calculated by the total number of persons in the district — $200 per student and staff member.

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