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Test To Stay program starts in Erie County

More than 20 school districts and several private schools are participating in the program so far.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Test To Stay program started in several Erie County schools this week, and a lot of you have asked 2 On Your Side questions about how it works.

The program allows students exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom to stay in school instead of going into quarantine.

So first of all, it is an option for students who are not fully vaccinated yet who are exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom, meaning a close contact tested positive. Test To Stay means you don't have to quarantine if you test negative. 

State guidelines for Test To Stay have students tested twice during what would have been the five-day quarantine period. If you're fully vaccinated, you wouldn't have to quarantine, so this doesn't apply to you. Staff members can also be included. The tests happen right at school.

"The parent would need to provide parental consent for their child to participate in the Test To Stay program, and so during the time of where they should be in quarantine for five days after the exposure, they are allowed to come to the school, and they receive a COVID-19 rapid antigen test before they walk into the classroom," Erie County health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said.

If the test is negative, you can stay in the classroom. It's also important to note that this only applies to classroom learning. Extracurricular activities are not included and still require quarantine for students who aren't fully vaccinated.

The Hamburg Central School District is on the Test To Stay list and started the program Tuesday.

"In Hamburg, we rolled out not only Test To Stay this week, but also we now have the ability to test students who come down with symptoms during the school day. Test them in the nurse's office, and if the test is negative, they go back to class, and if the test is positive, they go home," says Michael Cornell, the superintendent of Hamburg Central Schools. 

"In the past, if they come down to the nurse's office with any symptom, they automatically go home, and then the parent has to go find a PCR test or a rapid test; now that that's changed. That's also somewhat cumbersome and distressing for parents."

It is also only for people without symptoms.

"Part of the eligibility for test to stay is that the student or the staff must be asymptomatic. If they are symptomatic, they should definitely stay at home. If they develop symptoms while they're in the classroom, they should go and see the school nurse to be assessed, but they definitely would in that case, you know, need a test and to be medically evaluated to make sure it was safe for them to return to the classroom," Dr. Burstein said.

Some of you have asked about Buffalo Public Schools. They are not on the Test To Stay list.

2 On Your Side asked them Thursday about this, and an administrator told us the medical team working for the district is still evaluating the implementation of the program while focusing on mitigating COVID. So as of Thursday, BPS is not doing Test To Stay, but districts can choose to enroll at any time.

Schools are expected to be added to the list as they sign up.

Here is the current list as of 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 13, 2022:

  • Alden Central School District
  • Akron Central School District
  • Amherst Central School District
  • Cheektowaga Central School District
  • Cheektowaga-Sloan Union Free School District
  • Clarence Central School District
  • Cleveland Hill UFSD
  • Depew UFSD
  • Eden Central School District
  • Erie 1 BOCES
  • Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES
  • Evans-Brant (Lake Shore) Central School District
  • Frontier Central School District
  • Grand Island Central School District
  • Hamburg Central School District
  • Iroquois Central School District
  • Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda UFSD
  • Lackawanna City School District
  • Lancaster Central School District
  • North Collins Central School District
  • Orchard Park Central School District
  • Springville-GI Central School District
  • Sweet Home Central School District
  • Tonawanda City Schools
  • Williamsville Central School District
  • West Seneca Central School District
  • Aurora Waldorf School
  • Bishop Timon - St. Jude High School
  • Buffalo Seminary
  • Canisius High School
  • Christ the King School
  • Christian Central Academy
  • Elmwood Franklin School
  • Mount Mercy Academy
  • Nardin Academy
  • Nichols School
  • The Park School of Buffalo
  • St. Francis High School
  • St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute
  • Sacred Heart Academy
  • South Buffalo Charter School
  • Tapestry Charter School
  • West Buffalo Charter School