This week Scott County Schools will begin its Test to Stay program.

The program is designed to maintain in-person classes. Students, teachers and staff who are exposed to someone with COVID but are not showing any symptoms, will be tested prior to school. If the test returns negative they can go on to classes. Instead of being quarantined at home, the tests will be distributed each day during the quarantine period prior to classes.

The program is being used in other areas and states and was recommended during the recent special session of the General Assembly and by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Department of Public Health. The school system has contracted with Mako Medical to conduct the tests.

Scott County has avoided one problem experienced by other areas by enabling each individual school to have a site to conduct its own tests. Some areas have set up central testing sites and the lines were sometimes long, creating frustration, confusion and causing the opposite of what the tests were intended — missing classes.

Scott County and the WEDCO Health District were actually looking at such a program before the special session, so the school system is among the first in Kentucky to actually start such a program.

The program is not perfect. Rapid tests are given each day of a quarantine period, so an individual could test negative one day and positive the next — possibly exposing others. The rapid tests have only about a 50 percent accuracy rate, but are obviously the only option if daily tests are given and results are needed quickly. Molecular tests, which are standard COVID-19 test and require a nasal or throat swab are much more accurate, but typically require 48 hours for results. The school system is looking at providing molecular tests on Fridays or at least once per week, in an effort to keep the virus at bay.

Parental consent forms are required for students to be tested. Those who do not provide a consent form will be required to quarantine at home.

We applaud the school system for stepping out and instituting such a program. We all agree in-person classes are more beneficial to the students — and teachers — but the deadly impact of the virus must be respected and monitored. Requiring masks along with the Test to Stay program are controversial but necessary steps to enable in-person classes to continue to be held.

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