A pilot school quarantine program in Warren County school districts is being called successful after several weeks of implementation.
The Test & Stay policy used in Warren County districts like Mason, Springboro and Lebanon has allowed more than 260 healthy students to stay in the classroom instead of staying home in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, school officials reported, according to the Journal-News.
Now, after the pilot program has been running for a little more than three weeks, the Centers for Disease Control has called it a "promising practice" and is working with districts across the country to measure the overall effectiveness.
"We all know that if a student is in the classroom with their teacher in a class, it's an optimal learning environment," said Jonathan Cooper, superintendent of Mason City Schools. "We've learned that over the last two years."
The program does not require students to quarantine who are exposed to COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms if they have a negative test at Day 3 and again between Days 5-7. Participants need to wear a mask during the program and test negative for COVID-19 twice, after which they can return to their school's mask policy.
"And it's a safer place, because now we know for sure, with this testing protocol, what the numbers are and how much transmission is really happening with COVID inside schools," said Cooper.
Mason City Schools said 97% of students who opted for the Test and Stay program did not test positive for COVID-19. The district said the program helped them save 2,500 in-person school days for students who would have otherwise been sent home.
"Not only is it great for their academics, but it's great for the social and emotional health of the student, that whole child," said Cooper. "To keep them connected with their friends and their social network is so important for us."
Mason City Schools said the mental health of students and staff has been a major concern throughout the pandemic, and keeping people in-person is one way they're hoping to support the school community.
"It helps all of us to begin to stabilize, as well as communities," said Cooper. "The state of mental wellness of our students is at an all-time concern."