2021 | Schools

Implementation of MCPS test-to-stay program is ‘imminent’

More details expected this week

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The rollout of a COVID-19 testing program intended to further reduce the number of Montgomery County students required to quarantine when possibly exposed to the virus is “imminent,” county leaders said Wednesday.

In late September, school district and county health officials announced a plan to implement a “test-to-stay” protocol.

The protocol would allow students who had been in close contact with someone who tested positive to remain in classes as long as they don’t have symptoms and test negative for the virus daily. The testing would negate the need to be moved into a precautionary quarantine.

At the time, officials cautioned that it would take time to build up the staffing needed to support both the test-to-stay program and other COVID-19 needs in schools.

The district is partnering with an outside agency to hire staff members to administer the tests.

During a call with reporters on Wednesday, County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said the county has hired about 50 employees, but the goal is to hire up to 100 people.

Stoddard and other county health officials plan to meet with MCPS leaders on Thursday to talk about “final details” about test-to-stay, and the timeline for its implementation.

He added that he plans to share the protocol for the test-to-stay program with local private schools.

Stoddard said he believes the rollout is “imminent,” and that it will be introduced to a limited number of schools first before expanding gradually as more employees are hired.

The plan is to first focus on schools and students that have been affected most academically by the pandemic.

Data released last month by the school district show that many students — particularly minority and low-income students, and those in special education or English language learner programs — were less likely to be proficient in math and reading at the end of the last school year, compared to pre-pandemic years.

MCPS will use tests provided by the Maryland Department of Health to support the rollout of the program.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com