DESE sets new guidelines for students and staff exposed to COVID-19

“It’s great on paper, but how are we going to make it work in this particular community?” asked Burnham.

Posted: Oct 14, 2021 4:44 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2021 9:22 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri schools have a new option to limit COVID-19 quarantines. 

A newly released COVID-19 quarantine guideline from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education allows students, teachers and staff identified as a close contact to stay in school and participate in extracurricular activities if they can show multiple negative test results.

The new option is called "Test to Stay." 

Top health officials with the St. Joseph School District said they can see the perks this guidance offers them. 

“I’m not a fan of sending well kids home anyway, so I do see that we could potentially keep more kids in school,” said Maria Burnham, Health Coordinator for the St. Joseph School District. 

However, Burnham said logistically, it looks messy. 

“It’s great on paper, but how are we going to make it work in this particular community?” asked Burnham. 

The state said to qualify for "Test to Stay," students and faculty must take at least three rapid antigen tests within the first seven days of being contacted and test negative before returning to any school setting. Those exposed to the virus at home would not qualify for this new policy.

Students, teachers and staff must also wear a mask in school during the 14 day exposure and remain symptom free. 

District health officials said they're worried the sheer amount of testing could place a bigger burden on school nurses. 

"Currently we test, but we do it in one central location- through our clinic at Carden Park. Now, they're more or less stating that every nurse should be able to test in the school setting," said Burnham, "What kind of effort will have to be put into that when they're all ready seeing kiddos?" 

The state recommends daily testing for exposed students who want to continue participating in extracurricular activities. The policy states if an extracurricular or sports activity is scheduled for that day, a negative test result is required day-of before the student can compete. 

This day of testing still applies when school isn't in session, such as the weekends. 

The decision on whether or not to implement the state's newest guidelines is up to local health departments.

As of Thursday, both the St. Joseph Health Department and the St. Joseph School District said they're just starting initial discussions on "Test to Stay." 

Burnham said the district plans to have a more concrete idea of what's to come at the beginning of next week. 

“Before I get into action, I want to clarify some things. I just think it's the safest way for us and our parents before we, again, do something new,” said Burnham. 

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It was a pleasant start to the weekend with sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid 60s. A cold front moving through the area will bring us down into the 30s for lows overnight with gusty winds up to 20 mph. This will keep our highs in the 50s on Sunday under mostly sunny skies with mild winds from the southwest. Temperatures will quickly start to warm up again on Monday with highs in the mid 60s. Rain chances look to stay minimal into next week. Temperatures are forecasted to stay above average for the first day of December on Wednesday.
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