Oct. 17—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 Springboro, Lebanon and Waynesville 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.
"It's been overwhelmingly successful," Warren County Educational Service Center Superintendent Tom Isaacs said. "Through Monday, with 10 days of data, we've had 261 students participate in the pilot program. Of those students, seven tested positive for COVID-19 and the other 255 otherwise healthy students were kept in school who would have been quarantined at home before."
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 three and again between days five to seven.
The pilot plan was reviewed and approved by the Ohio Department of Health after getting a nod from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. It was implemented the week of Sept. 27, but not all of the Warren County school districts started on the same day.
Isaacs said this saved 2,500 instructional days, adding, "we feel very positive about that."
So far, Isaacs said there have been zero students who were part of the pilot program that contracted COVID-19 while they were in school.
"Based on contract tracing, they came down with COVID-19 outside of school," he said.
Isaacs said the pilot program has not been given an end date by the Ohio Department of Health. He said the "data is so strong" that he could see the state implement the pilot program statewide.
He said the county's school superintendents forward information to Mason Superintendent Jonathan Cooper who is tracking the numbers for the county.
Franklin Superintendent Michael Sander said he was pleased with how the pilot program has been working to help keep healthy students in the classrooms rather than in isolation in home quarantine.
Sander said as of Thursday, 52 students completed the program and saved 520 instructional days.
"The program has shown a lot of promise," he said. "We have to learn to live with it, just like the flu."
Springboro Superintendent Larry Hook said the pilot program has "worked wonderfully."
Hook said the numbers have been plummeting over the past three weeks.
"There's a low correlation between exposure at school and actually getting COVID-19," Hook said. "It's what we've known all along and its been holding true that the exposures happened out of school."
Lebanon Superintendent Isaac Seevers, who had to close school for three days on Sept. 1 due to a high student absence rate due to COVID-19, school exposures, quarantined students and other related illnesses, said the pilot program is going well for the district.
Carlisle Local Schools also had a temporary closure due to high student absence rates the same week. Both Lebanon and Carlisle districts reopened after the Labor Day weekend.
Seevers said, "it's going well. No one has tested positive as we are keeping healthy kids in school. It's been very successful for us."
While some parents opted not to have their children participate in the program, Seevers said, "overall parents have been receptive so far and the feedback has been positive."
Seevers said the district expects about 15 to 25 new cases a week which has been consistent for the past three to four weeks. However, that's down from about 60 cases a week before.
"The pilot is helping because we are consistently educating kids," he said. "It's allowed teachers, staff and administrators to do our jobs without doing COVID follow up. It's a huge step for us. We're back to the business of educating students. That's a major success for us."
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Ed Richter has been a working journalist for 35 years, with the last 30 years working in various capacities covering Butler and Warren counties as a reporter and an editor. An award-winning journalist, Richter covers local news and governments in Middletown, Monroe, Franklin, Carlisle and Franklin Twp.