The Lamoille South school district implemented new state-recommended guidelines this week aimed at using rapid-result COVID-19 tests to help students remain on campus instead of staying home under quarantine.

The program, called Test to Stay, allows unvaccinated students who are close contacts of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, such as a classmate or a teacher, to take a daily antigen test at the beginning of the school day. If they test negative, they can go to class and participate in extra-curricular activities as normal.

Students will continue to receive the daily test until seven days pass since they were last exposed to the virus.

At last week’s schoolboard meeting, held Nov. 2, superintendent Ryan Heraty reported there are still a few positive cases throughout the district, even as Test to Stay was initiated the day before.

Betsy Rich, a Morristown elementary school teacher, requested the testing be expanded.

“Can we please test-to-stay anyone who’s a close contact, not just the unvaccinated?” Rich said. “Just please consider that.”

While the new initiative rolls out, the district is now setting its eyes on the winter sports season. Following a relatively normal, mask-free fall sports season, things now move inside, where masks could again be de rigeur for athletes and the idea of spectator attendance is one that ends in a question mark.

“Spectators are probably the biggest shift for us as a school district right now and allowing people into the building in larger numbers than we have in the past,” Heraty said. “That’s something we really want to think about, as a change.”

Heraty said air quality monitoring will be important in the schools and capacity would be adjusted as necessary and spectators would have to follow school mask requirements. The athletic departments at Peoples Academy and Stowe High School are exploring livestream options, as well.

With PA and Stowe High vaccination rates over 80 percent, and an estimated employee vaccination rate exceeding 90 percent, the Lamoille South school board might soon consider an end date for mandatory masking.

And, this week, students ages 5-11 became eligible for vaccinations.

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