USD 232 launches new voluntary COVID-19 testing program aimed at keeping more kids in school

USD 232 in De Soto has started offering voluntary daily COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students who have had close contacts with an infected individual. The new testing regimen is sponsored by the Kansas state health department and, school officials say, is aimed at keeping more kids in school for in-person learning. File photo.

As part of ongoing efforts to keep students in school for in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, USD 232 in De Soto is opting into a COVID-19 testing program through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The USD 232 school board earlier this month discussed the program, known as Test to Stay & Learn, at length with district administration.

The voluntary program, which the district prepared to launch in schools last week, provides free daily COVID-19 testing to students who are identified as having been close contacts of an infected individual.

USD 232 began participating in the Test to Stay & Learn program after the school board voted in August to approve mitigation protocols that involve voluntary testing. The program’s costs are covered by the state.

The district is also looking to possibly utilize MAWD, a Lenexa-based pathology testing lab, to provide services for the testing program. Costs would still be covered by the state health department.

How the program works:

  • With parental consent, students identified as close contacts can take a rapid antigen test and get results in 15 minutes
  • Curbside testing takes place before the start of the school day — from 6:30 to 7:45 a.m. — at Cedar Trails Exploration Center, 8201 Mize Blvd., Lenexa (on the campus of Mill Creek Middle School)
  • With a negative test result, students can resume school activities for that day
  • With a positive test result, students may voluntarily take a PCR lab test. The student will be excluded from school until the PCR test results come back
  • A positive PCR test result will trigger contact tracing by the county health department
  • If the district decides to work with MAWD, then the lab will use PCR testing kits and offer testing results the same day. In this case, students would continue normal school attendance and activities
  • The program also offers serial antigen testing over a maximum of seven days in a row

The district already offers diagnostic testing when a student is symptomatic. Students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms can also voluntarily take a PCR test as part of the district’s current testing program.

Here’s a map of the curbside testing site:

Students who voluntarily share that they are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 do not have to go into quarantine and be excluded from school if they have had a close contact with an infected person.

The same rules apply for individuals who have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past six months.

Superintendent Frank Harwood said students who voluntarily participate in the Test to Stay & Learn program must comply with the entire process, or they could be excluded from school. This includes students who choose to not wear a mask to school. (High school students currently have the option of not wearing masks).

School building administration will handle enforcement of student compliance through the program, Harwood added.

The program will also be available to district staff.