Schools launch "test to stay" program

SOUTH GLENS FALLS – This school district was the first in the state to try a new "test to stay" program. The pilot program began two months ago.

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"At first, only about 90% of our families said yes to it because it was very new," said School Superintendent Kristine Orr. "Now we’re up to 95% to 98%."

After the governor put out guidance on December 23, counties including Albany and Schenectady have given the go-ahead, and schools like Schalmont and Watervliet are already taking part.

While before, students who had close contact with a COVID case in school would have to go out on quarantine, under "test to stay," students with no symptoms can stay in school, while taking a series of rapid tests in the days following exposure.

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It does not allow them to take part in extracurricular activities.

In South Glens Falls, in November and December, out of the more than 500 students being tested, three were found positive. That’s less than 1%.

"While we were doing the pilot, we had it at about 500 students, that was a savings of 2,000 days of instruction that they would have been out for on remote," said Orr.

Only three days after the holiday break now, in the middle school alone, there are already eight students testing to stay.

"When I think about our mental health and being isolated for all those months, and schools have been doing it obviously since March 2020, we knew that the best learning is in school," said Orr. "And so any way we can get our students to stay in school is the way we want to do that."

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Orr says she’s heard from students who are happy they don’t have the stress of learning from home, and from parents who are grateful they didn’t have to miss work.