COLUMBIA, S.C. — In efforts to keep more students present in the classroom during trying times of the pandemic, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) wants schools of the state to use its Test to Stay Program (TTS).
The program was created to allow rapid tests to be given to K-12 students who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, in hopes that more of them will be able to remain in class.
This means that instead of moving the exposed children quickly to quarantine, TTS will enable students to stay in the classroom if they test negative between days 5-7 and are not symptomatic, according to DHEC. The department also encourages a second test to be given 24 hours after the first.
DHEC announced that more than 1,600,000 rapid at-home tests have been ordered and 300,000 of them will be delivered to schools by the end of the week. DHEC will provide tests to schools that implement the new program.
“We are aware that several school districts have concerns about updates to our COVID-19 school guidance and our School and Childcare Exclusion List. We know that their goal is to keep more students in schools,” DHEC Director, Dr. Edward Simmer said in a release.
“DHEC shares in that goal and is ensuring that schools and parents have access to rapid tests so school systems can fully implement TTS, which allows most students to remain in school. This is the most effective way to maximize learning without sacrificing our students and teachers’ well-being.”
Schools are asked to accept rapid at-home test results from parents under the TTS program. COVID-19 guidelines such as wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands are still strongly encouraged in schools.
School districts in the area are being asked to follow the new guidelines, and districts like Kershaw County said they are preparing to implement the procedure, Elizabeth Starling, District Nurse for Kershaw County School District said, "We are looking at the test program as another tool to have in our toolbox. Hopefully in the next few weeks we will have more information from our vendors, so we can get that started,". Kathryne McPhail, Chief Communications Officer for Lexington County District One said in a statement "Lexington County School District One is still reviewing this program and will make a determination soon."