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Lawrence Public Schools to begin COVID-19 testing to curb quarantines

Article updated at 12:26 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25:

Effective Monday, the Lawrence school district will follow new COVID-19 guidelines that will allow symptom-free students and staff to test out of quarantine.

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In guidance for school families posted online Friday, the district explained how the “Test to Stay, Learn, Play, & Participate” program will work:

“Students identified by school health staff as close contacts at low risk of exposure will not need to quarantine as long as they remain symptom-free,” according to the new guidance.

The guidelines say that students who are close contacts determined to be at high risk of exposure must quarantine for 10 days from the date of exposure — they’ll be directly notified by the school and public health officials — but the new rules allow for several exceptions. (See the list of activities considered “high-risk” under Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health guidelines at this link.)

Students and staff members can get exempted from quarantine as long as they remain symptom-free. They may provide proof of full vaccination, or proof of a positive COVID-19 test within the last six months.

Otherwise, a symptom-free student’s parent or guardian (or students 18 and up themselves) must consent for the student to participate in daily testing at school during the quarantine period, or the student may provide negative antigen tests from a testing center, such as a local pharmacy, each day during the quarantine period.

Students and staff members who are fully vaccinated and/or had COVID-19 within the past six months do not have to undergo daily testing. Even if they’re considered high-risk contacts, they do not have to test as long as they remain symptom-free.

If a student is participating in the school testing program, the district has several rules, as shown in the PDF below. Among them: During the quarantine period, students testing negative and remaining symptom-free may attend school and participate in activities; however, they can’t ride the bus with other students; and parents must stay at school to receive results of rapid antigen tests (which take about 15 minutes). At-home test kits aren’t sufficient.

2021-9.27-For-Families_Revisions-to-COVID-Prevention-Measures

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The same basic options to be exempted from quarantine are available to staff members, as well.

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID, they must isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the onset of symptoms and not return to a district building unless they’re fever-free and feeling well for 72 hours.

The change to procedures aligns with updated guidance from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health. The testing is made possible by the Kansas K-12 Stay Positive Test Negative Initiative, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment program that is using federal funding for statewide COVID-19 testing options to help keep kids in schools.

For more information about how it will all work in Lawrence schools, see this page on the district’s website. Here’s more information about the rapid testing method in use.

As of Friday, LDCPH reported a rolling 14-day average of 31.64 new COVID cases reported each day, down from a recent peak of 42.14. The district was reporting 140 students and/or staff members in quarantine.

Click here to see the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence, the Lawrence school district, and Douglas County on the Times’ dashboard.
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