HERMANN — Gasconade County R-1 administrators are hoping they’ve found a way to avoid the hassles of students being quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic, much to the relief of …
HERMANN — Gasconade County R-1 administrators are hoping they’ve found a way to avoid the hassles of students being quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic, much to the relief of teachers and working parents.
The R-1 School District Board of Directors Thursday night approved the “Test to Stay” program, which is aimed at keeping in class students who have been in close contact with a classmate who tests positive for COVID-19. Close contact is defined as being within six feet of a person who has tested positive for the virus for a cumulative total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.
Superintendent Geoff Neill told the board that R-1 has been approved for a grant of $229,000 from state government to fund the program. “This would allow students who are non-symptomatic close contacts of positive cases to remain in school by testing negative for COVID-19 during what would typically be an out-of-school quarantine,” Neill wrote in his report to the board.
Unlike during a 10- or 14-day period in which a student is kept away from the R-1 campus while being observed for the development of symptoms, a student in the Test to Stay program can take part in regular school activities.
“This ‘Test to Stay’ program allows full participation as long as the tests remain negative,” Neill wrote, “and the contact is not symptomatic.”
The district’s top administrator explained that the grant will be used to pay for supplies and salaries of additional staff that might be needed to administer the testing. “Having three separate buildings and two nurses is a tough row to hoe,” said Neill.
Indeed, Jackie Engemann, the nurse at Hermann Middle School and Hermann Elementary School, told the directors that another nurse is needed to follow all athletic games and extracurricular activities. A full-time nurse at Hermann High School would take care of sick students, dispense medication and help with the BinaxNOW testing program. That program has been approved by the federal government to provide the rapid antigen test kits to check school personnel and students for the virus. This test is a minimally invasive nasal swab test.
Unlike the initial nasal swabs that required a long cotton swab inserted deep into the nasal passages, this test requires a swab less than one inch into the nostrils. The result of the test is available in 15 minutes.
“What’s great about it is that it keeps our kids in class,” said Engemann.
The administration noted that federal and state health agencies still consider vaccination as the best way to stop the spread of the virus.
“Those who have been vaccinated do not have to quarantine unless they develop symptoms and do not need to be tested unless they develop symptoms,” the report said.
The school will only test a student with consent from a parent or guardian, the report added.
R-1 will offer the testing for students to remain in school when those students have been designated as being a close school contact. The program will not apply to students deemed to be in close contact with someone outside the school setting.
School hours for testing — which will take place at the ticket booth at Bearcat Memorial Stadium — will be from 7:15 to 8 a.m. On a walk-up basis. School personnel will contact the parent with the result of the test. Students should remain in their cars while awaiting the result.
The Test to Stay program does not negate the need for a close-contact student to wear a mask. The report noted that a student must wear a mask consistently in school at all times during the full 14 days past the last date of exposure to the student who tested positive for the virus.
The close-contact student must receive a minimum of three rapid antigen tests during the first seven days of the quarantine period. The first test would be given upon identification of the student being a close contact. A minimum of two other tests would be administered with the first seven days, preferably on two non-consecutive school days.
Close-contact students taking the rapid antigen tests are allowed to take part in extracurricular activities. However, not only must the students comply with the three tests during the first seven days of exposure, they also must be tested each day that they participate in an event throughout the duration of the 14-day quarantine period.
Daily tests are not required for practice, but testing is required for any game, concert, performance, contest or other event. A negative test result or a note from a healthcare provider or pharmacy must be provided prior to the event, the report said.
Testing can be arranged at Hermann High School’s ticket booth at the football field Monday through Friday from 7:15 to 8 a.m. and from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m.; by calling Southwest Medical clinic at 573-486-2118 Monday through Friday to schedule an appointment; or through New Family Freedom by calling 573-271-2927 for an appointment.
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