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Warren County's new COVID-19 quarantine program has one goal: keep kids in school

school desk

Following high numbers of quarantines within Warren County school districts during the first semester, students now have a new option for quaranting: choose to quarantine from within their school building.

Schools within Warren County are piloting the Ohio Department of Health's Test & Stay Program to give students the opportunity to not miss school after being in close contact with someone who contracted COVID-19.

Students who opt into the program can quarantine while in school, so long as they are asymptomatic. That means if a student isn't showing symptoms, they can be in school so long as they wear a mask and test negative for COVID-19 twice - once on Day 3 and again between days 5 and 7 . Students who are already wearing a face mask to school or are vaccinated do not need to quarantine. Those participating in the program also can't engage in extracurricular activities if they are deemed to have had close contact.

Mason City Schools Superintendent Jonathan Cooper says schools within the district are taking it slow, but the results could be fruitful going forward.

"If 100 kids now gained 10 instructional days back in-person, and that's just the instructional focus, then that's 10 days of social connection back with their friends as well," Cooper said.

Lebanon City Schools Superintendent Issac Seevers says this aids the district's primary goal of keeping students in school.

"What we've found to be the case in the last four weeks is students want to be in school, they want to be with their friends, they want to be engaged in what's going on," Seevers said. "Most of them are willing to do whatever it takes to stay there."

Cooper says it could help kids avoid a stigma they can face if they're quarantined, even if they didn't get COVID-19.

"If they were sick, I think there would be a little different gravity to it because people do get sick and they do stay home, but when you're healthy and you're home and you're being forced to be separated away from all of your people - these are kids - they're already dealing with so much in their minds," Cooper said. "That's a big stressor on their mental wellness."

The Warren County commissioners have allocated federal dollars from COVID relief to the Warren County Educational Service Center to employ nurses throughout the school districts.

The Ohio Department of Health is providing the participating districts with Abbot BinaxNow Rapid Antigen Professional Test kits and Abbott BinaxNOW At-Home Test kits. School districts can test students identified as close contact, but families can opt to test their child at home, and then utilize a telehealth session to oversee test administration and result reporting.

Participating districts include Carlisle Local Schools, Clinton-Massie Local Schools, Franklin City Schools, Kings Local Schools, Lebanon City Schools, Little Miami Local Schools, Mason City Schools, Springboro Community Schools, Wayne Local Schools, the Warren County Career Center and Warren County Educational Service Center.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.